In a pair of alliances aimed at promoting secure wireless payments, MasterCard International and Visa International have each teamed up with Finnish mobile communications companies in technology development and marketing pacts.
Both MasterCard and Visa have been rushing after partnerships with smart card and wireless companies to develop solutions for secure payments through mobile devices. Visa has been working with the Swedish mobile company Ericsson to embed credit card information directly in a mobile device using a radar technology.
Visa's latest agreement is with the Finnish cellular phone maker Nokia. The companies plan to introduce a way to make secure payments using a mobile phone, conduct joint marketing and business development activities, and collaborate to develop a mobile "e-wallet" that would be used in a technology pilot program this year.
MasterCard's latest agreement came on the heels of an alliance with Oberthur Card Systems in which the companies said they would jointly develop a chip card to allow secure transactions over phones that use the Global Systems for Mobile communications standard, or GSM.
The Purchase, N.Y.-based card association's agreement with Sonera SmartTrust Ltd. of Finland would offer a slightly different solution. In this case, Sonera's secure digital signature, 1,024-bit RSA algorithm for encryption, and public key infrastructure, or PKI, technology are embedded in the handset. The companies said they will work together to enhance Sonera's wireless electronic commerce technology to support MasterCard payment products.
Analysts predicted that one billion mobile phones will be in use within four years. According to GartnerGroup of Stamford, Conn., mobile phones will be the most common consumer device for wireless transactions worldwide by 2003.
"As the global penetration of mobile phones continues to grow even faster than the adoption of PCs or the Internet, we feel the market is there and ready," said Harri Vatanen, president and chief executive of Sonera SmartTrust. "Implementing a major payment brand like MasterCard in a mobile device is going to be the starting point for rapid growth of global wireless secure e-commerce."
MasterCard and Sonera said they will launch programs with selected mobile operators and service providers, such as retailers or ticketing agencies, in various markets around the world.
"By making MasterCard's family of payment products easily operable in secure mobile devices, our members' customers will be able to buy goods and services, pay bills, reserve tickets and more while on the go, regardless of time or place," said Art Kranzley, senior vice president of electronic commerce and emerging technologies at MasterCard.