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Telecom operator Vodafone has launched a new pilot project in Kolkata where it will use Aadhar-based verification to issue new connections where where a customer’s Aadhaar card and finger prints are adequate for both validating and activating new pre-paid and post-paid connections, as indicated by this Press Trust of India report.

The Aadhar-based verification service will be available in 21 stores in the city and will be gradually to Vodafone mini stores too. Vodafone has said that it has launched the new initiative with the Department of Telecommunications (DOT).

However, this might be a significant step for payments if it can be expanded and other telecom operators join in too. It’s worth remembering that the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is looking to launch a Unified  Payments Interface (UPI) to simplify and provide interoperability for  payments with a single interface across all systems. Here’s a a diagram which sort of simplifies how the UPI will work:

UPI

UPI is an additional layer of payments architecture built upon the IMPS mobile payments system. An example of the interoperability could be that  a Paytm customer can make a payment to an HDFC Bank’s customer directly into their account. However, the UPI will also allow person-to-person payments with the ability to send money to a mobile phone number and remove the need for a sender to remember someone’s bank account number and IFSC code. The phone number will essentially become a virtual address where people can make or receive payments.

The virtual address is a handle that can uniquely identify account details. But the architecture of the UPI relies on something known as financial mapping in a central repository where phone numbers, bank account details and Aadhar credentials can be cross referenced.

“At NPCI we are mapping financial addresses with Aadhar. We are also looking if the mobile number can be used as a financial address. This will be done on a single, large mapper,  and we are calling it the National Financial Mapper. The Aadhar mapper is becoming a big mapper where many types of financial addresses for the same type of  person is available and depending on what information a person has given to the other party. So various types of financial addresses can be developed using the National Financial Mapper,” said A.P. Hota, managing director and CEO of NPCI at an event in Mumbai.

Indeed as part of the financial mapping, the NPCI has linked 15 crore bank accounts opened under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana with Aadhar numbers. The linking of an Aadhar number with a bank account makes the job of identification easier for the government in order to make welfare payments and subsidies directly into the bank accounts.

Perhaps with Aadhar-linked phone numbers as in the case of Vodafone’s pilot can also help enrich the central depository which can help with interoperability for payments.