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Nokia's Mobile Money roll-out bankrolled by Indian bank

Bankening the bankless billions

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Nokia's mobile banking project Mobile Money is now being backed by the Union Bank of India, and plans to roll out across the country in the next few months.

Mobile Money provides peer-to-peer money transfers via Nokia retailers, authenticated over the mobile network via SMS. The transfer autentication process uses technology from Obopay, the US payment processor in which Nokia invested $70m a couple of years ago.

The service was announced last year and we looked at it in detail, but the addition of a banking partner turns that announcement into a scheduled deployment.

"Union Bank Money, powered by Nokia" places both brands in the name, which is important when asking people who have never used a bank before to trust their money with a corporation. The technology is pretty basic, using a Java application interacting with the SIM for security, but the service has the potential to do great social good by providing banking services to the unbanked (estimated to be about half the population of India), not to mention making a lot of money for Nokia and the Union Bank.

The Union Bank of India already has 3,000 branches, which will be supplemented by Nokia retailers able to take money in and hand it out – even to those who don't have a Mobile Money account. Penn Olson pegs those retailers at more than 200,000 across India, bringing banking services into even the most rural of areas.

Not that Nokia is alone in wanting to do that: Indian network operators including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar offer similar p2p financial services. But Nokia's ability to pre-install the Mobile Money client on handsets is important, as well as the brand recognition. For all its problems, Nokia is still a very recognised and trusted brand around the world. ®

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