Last week the Central Bank of Iran announced a statement on stopping USSD services in the country from the 4th of February. Later Iran’s ICT Minister announced that this decision is temporarily nullified.
Over the last weeks, we’ve been hearing some of the officials in the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) expressing their concerns about the safety of USSD payment system. Of course, this is not the first time that the CBI gave its warnings on this matter. But now, with the recent announcement, they finally reached the decision to inform the banks of removing USSD from their services.
The USSD technology allows people to use multiple services without any applications being installed on your phone or even using your internet data or short message service. Now, having 25 million people in Iran which still use 2G cellphones, this technology instantly became a hit in the country. The USSD technology provides a rapid solution to people for taking care of their daily needs such as paying bills, buying airtime and multiple banks services.
However, the CBI has repeatedly emphasized that their effort is not on closing these payments, but rather securing it. According to Tasnim news, the Central Bank of Iran’s deputy director of new innovative technologies, Nasser Hakimi, has stated that there’s a possibility of hacking the information of the credit card by using this method of payment. “The duty of the CBI and the finance system is to secure, maintain and protect people’s information; and therefore our plan is to switch to safer alternatives.” He insisted on using more secure transactions through payment applications or securing the payments by the operators themselves.
Fortunately, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mr. Azari Jahromi, announced on his Twitter page that stopping USSD services will not happen. He stated that, with cellphone operators regarding some commitments, this issue is temporally solved. He then thanked the head of the CBI and its team for their special consideration towards the developing startups and the ICT market.
According to the statistics of USSD based transactions, this method has shown an incredible success in the country. Therefore a sudden decision on stopping this method without an equally effective alternative will not be beneficent especially for the businesses involved. Perhaps in the future, we’ll see a more elaborate cooperation between the CBI and the ministry of ICT in this case.