TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cell Phones Ready to Start Dialing For Dollars

Cell Phones Ready to Start Dialing For Dollars

Brian Garrity (
Mon, 17 Apr 2006 16:58:13 -0500

By Brian Garrity

Forget about cash and credit cards. There's a new payment alternative
for buying CDs, DVDs and other such entertainment pleasures -- your
cell phone.

Online payment specialist PayPal, a unit of Internet auction giant
eBay, has introduced PayPal Mobile to North America. The wireless
version of its service enables users to buy goods and exchange money
using their phones. Transactions are conducted by secure text

Music heavyweights Universal Music Group and MTV already are
supporting the technology.

UMG will use PayPal Mobile to sell CDs by the Pussycat Dolls, Mary
J. Blige and Daddy Yankee in direct-marketing initiatives. Rollout is
imminent. And MTV plans to use it to sell basic merchandise from its
Web store, including T-shirts and DVDs.

Other big-name media and entertainment brands, including 20th Century
Fox Home Entertainment, Bravo and the NBA Store, hope to drive similar
impulse buys by offering items for purchase via PayPal Mobile.

"With the overwhelming popularity of mobile phones, the time has never
been better for the merging of e-commerce and wireless devices,"
PayPal president Jeff Jordan says.

To be sure, the opportunity is huge. PayPal claims more than 100
million members.

In addition to purchasing goods, PayPal members can send money to
other individuals as well as to participating charities and merchants.

"PayPal Mobile is an important indicator of the broader changes now
occurring in the mobile content/payments space," says Ed Kountz,
senior financial services analyst with Jupiter Research.


Sophisticated mobile phones can already be used to buy digital
products, including music downloads, ringtones, pictures and
videos. But the ability to use a phone as a digital wallet for buying
physical goods is a new phenomenon in the United States.

PayPal's technology figures to be just one of a number of mobile
payment applications.

Motorola is said to be targeting the market, as are startups Obopay
and TextPayMe. And credit card companies, including Visa, are testing
a contactless payment technology in phones called near field
communication (NFC), which uses radio waves to transmit transaction
data. In the NFC trials, participants use their phones to make
purchases at a coffee shop, download a movie trailer in a DVD store,
shop from their home TV and buy concert tickets from a smart poster.

"You're going to start to see retailers embrace (mobile) as another
payment option," Universal Music Mobile vice president and general
manager Rio Caraeff says.

Analysts say mobile payment technology creates new sales opportunities
for the music business, including CD pre-orders, ticketing and concert

New mobile payment services are expected to expand the number of
merchants selling digital products for use on phones. In a move
unrelated to PayPal Mobile, UMG in May is expected to launch a new
premium short-message service that will allow consumers to use
text-message codes to buy ringtones, wallpapers and videos for their
phones. Billing will be handled by participating carriers including
Cingular, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Analysts are divided over what the music business should expect from
these new mobile payment options.

"To the extent that digital money doesn't feel like real money, it may
increase spontaneous purchasing," says Aram Sinnreich, an analyst with
Los Angeles-based research firm Radar Research. Sinnreich argues that
"carriers have a very simple and transparent billing relationship with
consumers, and adding a second billing platform only confuses things."

Kountz cautions that it will take 12 to 18 months to see how much
traction services like PayPal Mobile can gain in North America. "User
habits and awareness don't shift overnight."


Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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