Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari announced last month that FASTag will become mandatory for all vehicles effective December 1, 2019, after which vehicles running without the FASTag will be charged twice the normal rate at the toll gates.
The pilot project was launched in 2014 where the radio frequency identification (RFID) technology was used to enable fast and cashless payments at the electronic toll collection (ETC) gates. Later on, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made it mandatory for the toll lanes in the country to have ETC infrastructure for FASTag by March of this year. But what exactly is FASTag, how does it work, and how can you get one?
What is FASTag?
FASTags are prepaid rechargeable tags developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) under the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) program to meet the electronic tolling requirements in India.
The FASTag needs to be affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle for toll collection. The RFID-powered technology enables automatic toll payments when the vehicle passes through an NETC-supported gate or ETC lane on a toll plaza.
The transaction occurs while the vehicle is in motion and the driver doesn't need to stop at the gate for toll payment. The toll fare is directly debited from the linked account of the FASTag user.
How to buy and activate FASTag
FASTags can be availed online via an e-commerce platform like Amazon. The tag is bank-neutral and you will need to activate it yourself by installing the 'My FASTag' app on your smartphone. You will need to enter the vehicle details and link any one of your existing bank accounts. Paytm is also offering FASTag online after you input your front and back photos of your vehicle's RC.
FASTag can also be availed offline at select bank branches of any one of the 23 certified banks (npci.org.in/netc-live-members) including Axis Bank, State Bank of India, Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Paytm Payments Bank, Punjab National Bank and more. The FASTag can also be availed at Point-of-Sale (POS) at National Highway toll plazas.
How to recharge the FASTag
If you link your FASTag to your bank account, you only need to ensure that there is enough amount in your account. There is no need to recharge the tag. However, if you decide to link the FASTag to a prepaid wallet, you will have to keep the wallet balance maintained or else the payment at an ETC gate will fail.
How does it work?
When a vehicle passes through the ETC lane, the process of recognising and debiting the FASTag user is completed between four parties-- toll plaza, acquirer bank, NETC, and the issuer. The transaction from the toll plaza is sent to the acquiring system, which validates these transactions and sends it to NETC switch. The NPCI routes these transactions to the respective issuer bank which in turn debits the tag holder account. The process flow is as follows:
The toll plaza system captures the FASTag details like the tag ID and vehicle class and sends it to the acquiring bank for processing, which sends a request to the NETC mapper to validate the tag details. Once the tag ID is validated, NETC mapper responds with details like vehicle class, registration number, and the tag status.
If the tag ID is absent in NETC mapper, it will respond that the tag ID is not registered. After successful validation of the tag ID, the acquirer bank calculates the toll fare and initiates a debit request to NETC system, which switches the debit request to the respective issuer bank for debiting the account of the customer.
Once the account is debited, the tag holder receives a confirmation SMS. The issuer also sends a response message to the NETC system, which notifies the acquirer host. The host then notifies the respective toll plaza system.