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Much Ado About Mobile Banking

By Maria Bruno-Britz, Bank Systems & Technology Within the span of just a few days, my inbox has been inundated with announcements related to new mobile banking/payments initiatives. Although consumers may not be quite as ready as proponents of this banking/payments channel claim they are, banks, telecoms and others are certainly making it clear that they'll convince people to use mobile for more than just talking one way or another.

By Maria Bruno-Britz, Bank Systems & Technology

Within the span of just a few days, my inbox has been inundated with announcements related to new mobile banking/payments initiatives. Although consumers may not be quite as ready as proponents of this banking/payments channel claim they are, banks, telecoms and others are certainly making it clear that they'll convince people to use mobile for more than just talking one way or another.According to Celent, global mobile commerce revenues are estimated to have surpassed $24 billion in 2006 and will reach $55 billion by 2008. Said senior analyst Dan Schatt in a statement, "After booms, busts and false starts, we are now seeing evidence of a real mobile banking revolution sweeping across the financial services industry that will eventually fuse mobile banking and contactless commerce together. Banks, vendors and carriers have started to work out the economics in cooperative arrangements that can provide carriers with highly desirable financial services content, banks with a broad distribution and servicing medium, and consumers with a very efficient, secure mobile banking application. Banks have historically deployed mobile browser solutions to little fanfare. ... Citibank, Wachovia, Regions Bank, Bank Corp South and SunTrust are all first movers here and we are likely to see more announcements follow soon from more of the top 15 U.S. banks."

Here is a taste of what has been happening in the mobile channel recently.

Cingular Cuts Mobile Banking Deal with Several Banks Cingular/AT&T signed agreements with several U.S. banks to provide mobile banking services to their respective customers. The agreements will allow customers of AT&T's Cingular Wireless arm and participating banks to manage their accounts and pay bills electronically by using an application on their cell phones. Participating banks include Wachovia, BancorpSouth, Regions Financial and SunTrust. They will offer the service to AT&T wireless customers. People will download software to their phones from mobile applications provider FireThorn. AT&T plans to include the software in new handsets in the second half of this year. However, as Bob Egan, chief analyst and research area director of TowerGroup's Emerging Technologies group, said in a release, "The agreement among this handful U.S. banks and one U.S. wireless operator represents only a small step toward true mobile banking. Banks looking to gain traction in this space must extend their reach across all the major wireless telecom providers. Forcing consumers to make a wireless operator choice does little to move the mobile banking proposition to the mainstream."

Metavante and Monitise to Create Mobile Payments System for North America Metavante, the banking and payments technology solutions provider, signed memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with Monitise, a European provider of secure mobile banking and payments capability, to operate a mobile payments system in the United States. The joint venture will be designed to enable consumers to rely on a common, intuitive and secure interface to initially check account balances, transfer funds between bank accounts and pay bills any time from their mobile phones.

ViVOtech and Mobile Candy Dish to Provide M-banking and other Mobile Extras ViVOtech, a provider of contactless payments technology, has partnered with Mobile Candy Dish, a company that offers unique features for cell phones, to allow mobile phone users to engage in the following activities through their phone: • Purchasing Movie Tickets (sports, concert, and theater tickets will launch this summer) • Getting Event Information (movie show times and trailers, sports scores, venue seating charts) • Providing Financial Management--get account balance, account limit and electronic receipts (bill pay and money transfer to launch this summer) • Finding Points of Interest (restaurants, nearby merchants, etc.) • Getting Directions and Maps • Allowing Consumer Customization (changing look and feel of the application, setting personal preferences, etc.)

Cellular South to Launch Multi-City M-payments Pilot Wireless provider Cellular South is teaming with phone manufacturer Kyocera Wireless to launch a multi-city consumer trial of near field communications (NFC)-enabled wireless wallet technology. Cellular South says the pilot will allow participants to use the m-payments technology at retail locations in multiple cities. Participants will use a Kyocera handset embedded with NFC technology to make payments by tapping the handset against a NFC-enabled reader. The pilot will begin in May in Memphis, Tenn., and Jackson, Miss. The telecom says it plans to complete the trial by August 2007, with widespread consumer rollout of the in Q4 2007.

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