Vodafone starts mobile payment trial in Europe

Mobile telecommunication company Vodafone U.K. Ltd. has begun trials of a global payment platform over mobile devices in the U.K., Germany and Italy, the company announced Thursday.

According to Vodafone, the main benefit for users paying for goods with their mobile phones would be security and convenience when buying online.

"Right now, when you buy something over the Internet, you have to go through the registration process for each site, and that's another group of people that you're giving your credit card information to. With our global payment platform, you'd register your details once with Vodafone, we'd store your information and then we'd make agreements with vendors for payment. The user just has to enter a PIN number to make a purchase which will be highly secure," said Jon Earl, senior investor relations manager for Vodafone.

Payments for items bought over the service will be made through credit cards, debit cards or electronic direct debit for larger purchases, Earl said.

Vodafone is working with a third-party software company to develop the mobile payment system, but Earl declined to name the company. He also declined to say how long the trial is scheduled to run for or how many people are to be involved. The service will be launched commercially to Vodafone's 50 million customers in the U.K., Germany and Italy "sometime later this year," he said.

Those taking part in the trials will be able to purchase digital goods over the Internet, such as ring tones, while in Germany, Vodafone has partnered with a ticketing agency to allow trial users there to buy tickets for events and public transportation, Earl said.

The trial was initially announced last month, though at the time Vodafone indicated it would only take place in the U.K.

"The trial is being designed to create a global platform for the payment system so that we can roll it out quickly all over the world once the trials are complete. One of the reasons that Italy has been included in the trial is because we think that is going to be a very important market as we foresee people being very comfortable making purchases with their mobile phones at an early stage," Earl said.

While Vodafone customers will initially be able to pay only for digital content and "virtual products" such as ring tones via their prepay accounts or their monthly bills services, eventually the program will be extended to allow users to make purchases in shops for such things as soft drinks or clothes, Earl said.

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