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Payments up to a tenner

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PayForIt is another mobile wallet scheme, this time backed by all the major operators and launched with the limited aim of taking payments for ringtones, games, and other mobile content.

PayForIt is designed to provide a consistent interface regardless of the network operator, managed by licensed third parties and integrated into the browsing experience.

A vendor wanting to sell ringtones does a deal with one of these third parties, who have in turn made arrangements with the network operators. The vendor puts the link beside their content, and the user sees a consistent interface which takes their payment and notifies the appropriate network operator, checking their balance in the case of pre-pay.

The network operator gets a cut of the transaction, as does the third party, the rest goes to the content vendor. The system won't mean more money for anyone involved, but it should mean more flexibility and a smoother user experience.

The user is identified by their connection, as opposed to SIM-based systems which have been tried in the past. This means it won't work if you're connected by Wi-Fi or similar, though that shouldn't be a significant issue for a while at least.

The brand, and logo, is supposed to engender a confidence lacking in premium-rate messaging systems, while also adding the capability to bill for any amount: starting from a penny and up to a tenner.

Mobile billing systems are often characterised by a core system; originally designed to count voice minutes, onto which a messaging system has been bolted, with some form of pre-payment slapped on top; the whole thing being pasted together with a sticky tape and string.

The messaging system, designed to count bundles of 160 characters, is now being asked to do more as video streaming, subscription services and international roaming make billing even more of a nightmare.

Using SMS to bill for content presents several problems: the amounts that can be billed are limited to pre-determined quantities; with multiple messages used to make up larger amounts, and the user experience is pretty poor: reverse-billed messages arrive in an inbox unconnected with the phone's browser, and off-portal services (not run by the network operator) often require the user to compose esoteric messages to pre-determined numbers to pay for content.

In theory PayForIt could open the door to the much-heralded micro-payment economy, but in reality it's more likely to just make it easy to get the Crazy Frog on your phone.

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