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NTT DoCoMo to trial mPayments

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NTT DoCoMo is to trial a credit card linked mobile payment service in June. However, it may be found that the new payment system fails to present a strong enough business case. Conversely, there seems to be much more room for success in the micro-payments market. Yet even that niche will prove difficult to crack.

Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo has announced that it is to trial a credit card payment service via mobile phones. The trial, conducted in conjunction with Visa, is to start in June and will enable users to pay for goods in shops using their mobile phone and have the transaction billed to their credit card.

NTT DoCoMo has already developed successful micro-payment mobile services in Japan. The question is whether it will also enjoy such success with its credit card linked service. If anybody can make it work, then NTT DoCoMo can, but there is undoubtedly a long road ahead.

On the one hand, linking a mobile payment service to an existing payment method is a good move as consumers are then still using a familiar payment system. Certainly, this is something that European players Mobipay and Vodafone count as strong points of their payment card linked mobile payment services.

On the other hand, the question of whether there is really a space for such a payment service has yet to be answered definitively. Ultimately, there is little incentive for consumers to choose to pay with a credit card using their mobile, rather than just pay with their credit card alone.

However, mPayments present a much more compelling proposition in the micro-payments market. In the offline world, there is surely room for mPayments to replace loose change at vending machines, while in the online world mobile linked solutions could be a viable payment mechanism for cheap online downloads, such as ring tones and music files.

Yet even with the micro-payments offering, success is not guaranteed. Providers will need to be part of an open scheme and also attract large volumes of payments to be profitable. The mPayments market, it seems, is a tough one to crack for long-term success.

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