Four of the world’s biggest mobile operators have announced an agreement to cooperate on the development of mobile payment (m-payment) solutions. Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and Telefónica Moviles, which between them control 270 million subscribers, have established the Mobile Payments Services Association to develop jointly branded products which will be compatible with existing network protocols. It is intended that the new organisation will establish a set of industry standards for m-payment, which will benefit service providers, vendors and software developers alike. By ensuring standardisation the operators clearly hope that m-payment services will see widespread take-up in much the same way as SMS.
The aim with m-payment is to allow customers to make purchases using their mobile phone, rather than traditional card or cash payment. The benefit to members of the group is clear: it allows them to provide additional cheap bolt-on services which will help to boost flagging revenues. With voice revenues stagnating and operators downgrading their expectations for 3G, m-payment may provide vital additional sources of income. As well as the four founding members, Hutchison Whampoa (via its UK mobile brand name 3), debitel, KPN Mobile, mmO2 and TMN have also expressed interest in joining the consortium.
The Mobile Payments Services Association is to be based in London with Tim Jones, formerly of NatWest, as CEO.