UPI123Pay: Payment solution for feature phone users

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UPI123Pay: Payment solution for feature phone users

  • The Reserve Bank of India has launched a new Unified Payments Interface (UPI) payments solution for feature phone users dubbed ‘UPI123Pay’.

What is UPI?

  • UPI is an instant real-time payment system developed by NPCI facilitating inter-bank transactions.
  • The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

What is UPI123Pay?

  • UPI ‘123PAY’ is a three-step method to initiate and execute services for users which will work on simple phones.
  • It will allow customers to use feature phones for almost all transactions except scan and pay.
  • It doesn’t need an internet connection for transactions. Customers have to link their bank account with feature phones to use this facility.
  • Feature phone users will now be able to undertake a host of transactions based on four technology alternatives.
  • They include calling an IVR (interactive voice response) number, app functionality in feature phones, missed call-based approach and also proximity sound-based payments.
  • Such users can initiate payments to friends and family, pay utility bills, recharge the FAST Tags of their vehicles, pay mobile bills and also allow users to check account balances.
  • Customers will also be able to link bank accounts, set or change UPI PINs.


  • A 24×7 helpline for digital payments has also been set up by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • The helpline christened ‘Digisaathi’ will assist the callers/users with all their queries on digital payments via website and chatbot.
  • Users can visit or call on 14431 and 1800 891 3333 from their phones for their queries on digital payments and grievances.

Need for UPI123Pay

  • UPI, which was introduced in 2016, has become one of the most used digital payments platforms in the country.
  • The volume of UPI transactions has already reached ₹76 lakh crore in the current year, compared to ₹41 lakh crore in FY21.
  • However, at present, efficient access to UPI is available largely via smartphones.

How will users make payments without internet?

  • The new UPI payments system offers users four options to make payments without internet connectivity:
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Users would be required to initiate a secured call from their feature phones to a predetermined IVR number and complete UPI on-boarding formalities to be able to start making financial transactions like money transfer, mobile recharge, EMI repayment, balance check, among others.
  • App-based functionality: One could also install an app on feature phone through which several UPI functions, available on smartphones, will be available on their feature phone, except scan and pay feature which is currently not available.
  • Missed call facility: The missed call facility will allow users to access their bank account and perform routine transactions such as receiving, transferring funds, regular purchases, bill payments, etc., by giving a missed call on the number displayed at the merchant outlet. The customer will receive an incoming call to authenticate the transaction by entering UPI PIN.
  • Proximity sound-based payments: One could utilise the proximity sound-based payments option, which uses sound waves to enable contactless, offline, and proximity data communication on any device.

How do UPI payments through sound work?

  • UPI payments using sound isn’t new. When Google Pay was first launched in 2017 as Tez, the app had a sound-based system of payments built in.
  • Google called this ‘Cash Mode’ in which phones would emit ultrasonic sounds that could be used by other Tez users to accept and receive money.
  • It’s somewhat like Bluetooth but instead of using radio waves, it uses sound waves to transfer data from one device to the next.
  • A company called ToneTag also produces audio-based point-of-sale machines.

Is payment through sound secure?

  • Sound wave-based payments are meant to be contactless, but occur within a certain proximity only.
  • Ultrasonic waves are outside the usual human hearing range, but such payment systems can also use audible sounds, something that US-based startup Chirp showcased back in 2011.
  • Devices using such systems are encrypted, and only the devices involved can recognize the emitted waves.
  • The sound waves  being  emitted are  encrypted, meaning the receiving device will need to have decryption codes to complete the transaction.