The alternative payments start-up Paymo Inc. announced several deals Tuesday that significantly expand its reach and mark its debut in the United States.
The service the San Francisco company introduced in August lets customers charge online purchases to their cell phone bills. It said Tuesday that three mobile networks in the United States have agreed to carry its charges on their monthly statements: AT&T Corp., the T-Mobile unit of Deutsche Telekom AG, and Virgin Mobile, which uses the Sprint Nextel network to carry its signals.
Paymo also announced that users of the social networking service operated by hi5 Networks Inc., also of San Francisco, can now use Paymo's service to purchase hi5 Coins, hi5's virtual currency, which are redeemable for gifts and content on hi5's Web site.
Terry Langlais, Paymo's director of marketing, said in an interview Tuesday that the three carrier announcements mark the official launch of his company's service in the United States, though it has been live for several weeks with both hi5 and the three carriers.
Paymo says it is now available to more than a billion mobile phone users in 45 countries.
Langlais said the social networking deal gives Paymo instant visibility on a prominent platform; hi5 is the world's No. 3 social network, behind MySpace and Facebook, he said. The partnership makes Paymo available to hi5 users in 45 countries. "And they are net new users, because they don't have credit cards, they don't have banks."
Launched in 2003, the hi5 service has more than 80 million registered members in over 200 nations; hi5 Networks says the service is particularly popular among Spanish speakers in the United States and abroad.
Users of Paymo's service are able to transact with participating online merchants, without registering, by entering their mobile phone numbers. Paymo's process requires them to confirm purchases with a text message. Charges can be deducted from prepaid accounts or billed to monthly statements.
Paymo targets mobile phone users who do not have credit cards. In the United States, that generally means the teen market, though Paymo said 70% of mobile users worldwide do not have credit cards.