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Visa banking on mobile

US bank Wells Fargo and payments firm Visa USA are trialing a service that they say will finally ensure consumer mobile payments will become a mass market reality.

Payments and banking are long time partners in one of mobile’s most enduring ‘will they, won they?’ romance stories. This is by no means the first time that either Wells or Visa have tested the waters.

This pilot has three phases to help the firms better understand how consumers will use mobile payment and service options on mobile devices equipped with near field communication (NFC) technology.

This pilot is by no means unique. M-banking and m-payments solutions have received fresh impetus with the resurgent interest in NFC.

NFC, like location-based services, biometrics and motion sensitivity, is a technological solution oft labeled as an ‘enabler’ in the mobile industry. For ‘enabler’ read ‘quite cool tech in search of market’.

Payments and NFC teamed up with notable success in Japan. NTT DoCoMo’s e-wallets service using Sony’s FeliCa contactless technology, launched in 2004. Though DoCoMo definitely differentiated itself by offering what is still a unique service – which drove an estimated $900m worth of payments during 2006 – the growing availability of NFC capability in devices from the likes of Motorola, Nokia and Samsung as well as efforts by credit card companies to push contactless terminals into merchant outlets, means almost any operator will potentially be able to offer payment programmes similar to FeliCa.

“Mobile devices have become an integral part of everyday life, just as electronic payments have,” said Peter Ho, product manager in Wells Fargo’s Card Services division. “Our customers expect the flexibility and convenience that mobile payments and services provide. Visa’s mobile platform delivers what we need to develop secure, mobile solutions.”

Options to be tested include secure, over-the-air delivery of payment account information to the mobile device; mobile payments in stores and restaurants accepting Visa payWave technology; receiving and redeeming mobile coupons; and account management services.

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