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Nokia banks on cash transfer biz

Inter-bank exchange via SMS

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Nokia is about to launch its own money transfer system, Nokia Money, providing the convenience of banking services to the developing world as well as cashless transfers for everyone else.

Nokia Money will launch next year, with more details to emerge at the Nokia World next week, but the service is based on that already deployed by Obopay - in whom Nokia has $70m invested - with "uniquely developed mobile elements" that will apparently make the service even more compelling.

The premise is to bring banking services to the billions who currently don't have a bank account - Nokia reckons only 1.6 billion have bank accounts, while current estimates of mobile phone penetration stand around four billion. In India the Obopay service operates in conjunction with a bank, allowing users to pay bills, check balances and request funds with simple text messages.

That makes the service cross-network, and available on any handset, though a local application can obviously improve the experience. Emerging markets will be developed first, which means building a network of Nokia Money agents who can convert hard cash into electronic credit.

But Nokia's aspirations don't stop there, as the Finns think we'd all like to use our phones to pay for things:

"For urban consumers... we are enabling services such as payment of utility bills, purchase of train and movie tickets, top-ups, all through their mobile phones," says the Nokia release.

Nokia isn't the first company to look at payments via SMS - your correspondent managed to pay for a meal by text back in 2002, just - but with Nokia's brand behind it, and a focus on economies where traditional banks are hard to come by, it could be the one that makes it. ®

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