HDFC Bank Ltd.’s new mobile service could be a game-changer in India’s mobile-payments market, making such services cheaper and more widely accepted.

Last week, Movida India Pvt. Ltd., a mobile payments joint venture involving Visa Inc. and Monitise PLC, signed an agreement with HDFC–India’s second largest private bank–to introduce a mobile-payment service.

The service will enable HDFC’s customers to pay bills, top up prepaid airtime and buy tickets from their mobile phones, regardless of whether they have a Visa-branded card. There would be no fees for this service.

Indeed, the differentiator is that any mobile subscriber can use it across networks, Mrinalini Manral, a Mumbai-based banking analyst, tells PaymentsSource.

“The service is card and operator agnostic, and so it would allow a wider rollout,” he says. “The technology behind this service would allow users of even the most basic of feature phones to use it.”

The service uses menu-based Unstructured Supplementary Service Data mobile technology, which works on all GSM phones and doesn’t require mobile apps or text messages, according to Manral.

“Most mobile-payment services in India currently use apps or text messages to work,” he says. “Even HDFC Bank has two other mobile-payment services, one based on a Java app and the other on text messages.”

With HDFC’s product launch, mobile payments will receive a big boost in India, especially because Movida plans to roll it out with other banks later this year, Manral says.

“If there is one problem with this service, it is that it does not work on CDMA phones,” he says. “That could be a minor rollout hitch, but India does have more GSM subscribers than CDMA ones.”

Customers will have to first link their HDFC card to their mobile phone number to access and use the service, a spokesperson for the bank tells PaymentsSource.

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