Mobile phone charge system hindered by banking regulations

Next year users will be able to point their camera phones at a barcode to trigger a Wap page download and make instant, low-value...

Next year users will be able to point their camera phones at a barcode to trigger a Wap page download and make instant, low-value transactions.

That was the vision presented at last week's CityIT conference by Tim Jones, chief executive of Simpay, a mobile payments joint venture set up by Europe's four largest mobile phone operators.

Jones is the former chief executive of retail banking at NatWest and played a key role in the Mondex e-payment system, which was launched in 1995 but not widely adopted. Simpay is backed by Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and Telefonica Movil, which have a combined customer base of 250 million.

Simpay will announce a live launch of its "bill my mobile" micro-payments system for transactions below e5 (£3.46) at the February 2004 GSM Association conference in Cannes.

Jones plans to extend the service to other mobile operators and is in discussions with 10 other European operators.

Simpay is also drawing up plans for a sister "pay from my wallet" mobile transaction service for transactions over e5.

This latest attempt to launch a viable mobile commerce platform faces a number of challenges. Banks, merchants, mobile phone companies and software prov-iders will have to standardise their technology and commission payments.

Jones is negotiating with the banks on the back-end customer and transaction authentication, settlement and payment. He said this will take about two years to organise and that Simpay is "getting some hostility from banks".

Simpay must also contend with regulatory issues, including the draft European Union e-money legislation, a final version of which is not due until 2007-2008. "We will have to muddle through until then," Jones said.

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