The US Federal Reserve is set to launch “FedNow”, -a service that will enable businesses, individuals and institutions to send payments instantly, offering the same services as cryptocurrencies and a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
According to a Monday announcement, the technical testing phase for the service is expected to start next month before being rolled out to the public between May and July 2023.
Approved by the Fed in 2019, FedNow seeks to advance modern payment in the US by replacing the existing Real-Time-Payments (RTP) Network, which has yoked payments due to geographical and time-related hurdles. Once the service goes live, users can send and receive instant payments at any time of the day, giving them greater flexibility to manage their money and make time-sensitive payments.
“The FedNow Service will transform the way everyday payments are made throughout the economy, bringing substantial gains to households and businesses through the ability to send instant payments at any time on any day, and the funds being immediately available to recipients to make other payments or manage cash flow efficiently.” Said Lael Brainard, Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board.
As per the announcement, access to the service will be provided through Federal Reserve’s “FedLine network”, a web-based solution designed to facilitate electronic payments efficiently, safely, and securely. Over 120 organisations and banks are already testing the project’s pilot phase.
Introducing the service could, however, impede the introduction of a CBDC, which has been in the works for largely the same reasons. Last week, Fed Governor Michelle W. Bowman stated that he expected that FedNow would address the issues that have been raised about the need for a CBDC. He, however, suggested that the bank could also go the CBDC route once it was satisfied with its design principles, costs, and benefits, as laid out in a discussion paper earlier this year. Fed officials are currently divided on its need, with some top officials vouching for FedNow.
Some people are also suggesting that the service is likely to alienate crypto innovations further and upend the use of private cryptocurrencies in transactions as users turn to a “safer” service backed by the Fed reserve.
However, some industry professionals believe that the Fed may have to wait for years before businesses and consumers can fully embrace FedNow, noting that the service is an overdue upgrade to US’ outdated payments infrastructure. Moreover, the impacts of the services are not likely to devastate the crypto industry since payments under the service will be limited within the US.