Mobile operators unveil Simpay

M-payments platform

The Mobile Payments Services Association has changed its name, before it's really got started. The group, set up this year by Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telefonica Moviles, is now called Simpay.

Simpay is targeting a billion sales transactions paid for by mobile phone a year within five years, and the group is in talks with 14 mobile operators to join the club.

M-payments have failed to set the world alight so far because there are, or have been, too many incompatible systems; they are expensive to implement; the operators levy outrageous charges on the retailers; and there simply aren't enough customers to make the exercise worthwhile for the merchants.

With Europe's mobile industry uniting around a single interoperable platform (to launch in 2004), and heavily promoted brand, the concept of MPayments may turn into profitable reality. But for whom? Merchants will stay away in droves, unless they get more reasonable rates.

Simpay is gunning for big ticket items as well as cheap things, such as MP3 downloads, which would be charged straight to the customer's phone account. For more expensive stuff, Simpay would facilitate payments "using credit and debit cards to complete transactions such as travel bookings, theatre tickets and gift orders".

The Simpay rebranding is refreshingly free of marketing bull - the MPSA founders simply say Simpay will distinguish the company as a separate entity from its founding members and should position the brand strongly in the consumer segment. The Simpay tagline is straight and to the point too: "Pay for Stuff with Your Mobile".

Even the most high-falutin' claim for the Simpay name is relatively restrained. Simpay "also highlights the evolution of the mobile phone from being purely a communications device to being an essential lifestyle tool that enables payments." OK, we'll let you get away with that one. ®

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