Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) have conveyed to the Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) about their disappointment related to the zero tariffs for unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) based payment services and mobile banking. The telcos have said that zero tariffs would increase the cost pressure very significantly, and it is already a debt-laden sector which means it would be very bad for their business as well as the sector.
According to an ET Telecom report, Bharti Airtel has asked TRAI to fairly compensate them if it plans to keep its order of offering USSD services for free.
Airtel Writes to TRAI Asking to Compensate Fairly for Free USSD Services
In a submission to the regulator, Airtel said that the charges of USSD services should be brought down in a phased manner from 50 paise to 5-10 paise. The telco said that if the regulator plans to offer the USSD based services for free, then there should be a mechanism to fairly compensate the telcos by the concerned stakeholders.
Vodafone Idea has said that USSD services require both operational as well as capex costs in terms of network resources, manual activities, human resources, IT/billing platforms, and more. The telco said that cost per unit would be substantial if the volumes were considered.
For the unaware, TRAI had made USSD based services completely free for Indians in November 2021. USSD based services are used for payment services and mobile banking. This move from the regulator came to protect the interests of the users on feature phones. Further, with zero cost for USSD services, users would be inclined to make online payments which will result in the digital inclusion of more Indians.
However, the telcos aren’t liking the decision from the regulator as it involves a substantial cost for which they are earning nothing. Thus, Airtel has asked for a suitable mechanism for compensating the telcos to provide free USSD based services.