Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Ltd has started operations, the RBI announced in a release, making it the fifth payments bank to roll out operations after the central bank gave its in-principle approval to 11 applicants in August 2015.

The Idea Payments Bank launch comes at a time when the central bank has issued fresh know your customer (KYC) norms for telecom operators who also run payments banks that are likely to increase operational costs for the platform.

The payments banks that are currently in operation include Airtel Payments Bank Ltd, India Post Payments Bank Ltd, Paytm Payments Bank Ltd and Fino Payments Bank Ltd.

The other applicants like Vodafone m-Pesa Ltd, Reliance Industries Ltd and National Securities Depository Ltd have licenses but have yet to start operations.

Idea Money and the payments bank

Idea Money, Idea Cellular’s prepaid wallet service, increased its registered user base to 12 million at the end of December 2017, growing 5.9% from 12.3 million in the preceding quarter. On a year-on-year basis, the number of registered wallet users increased 86% from 7 million. The increase in registered users isn’t leading to more transactions, though. The total number of transactions for the quarter stood at 2.26 million, down 9.03% from 2.48 million in the preceding quarter, and 45.47% down from 4.14 million last year. The value of the transactions also declined 15.6% QoQ to Rs 140.1 crore, almost the same as 140 crore in the same quarter last year.

Idea Mobile Banking Services, which owns the wallet, had asked for it to be amalgamated with the payments bank business.

According to the quarterly report, “The Payments Bank intends to promote a wide range of banking products & services including current and savings bank account, domestic remittances, merchant payments etc. while partnering with ABG financial services, select universal banks & financial institutions for offering range of full banking products including Demand Deposits, other related investment and Insurance products to its payments bank customer.”

Vodafone India will soon be merging with Idea Cellular; however, both the companies have not discussed what they will do with their payments businesses. Vodafone m-Pesa’s active user-base stood at 1.3 million as of Q1FY16, and hasn’t been updated since. The number of m-Pesa agents stood at 120,000.