Mobile payment has huge potential in China but it’s still a long way from being realized.'
Picture this scene: a small town in hilly Anhui province hasn't received its regular consignment of mobile phone top-up cards used by pre-paid customers to recharge their accounts. Without the cards, usually sold at convenience stores and newsstands, many people are denied their primary means of communication.
The solution is a man standing by the side of the road. He is a subscriber with a mobile payment company, which acts as a virtual middle man between the mobile service provider and his bank account. His handset is, in effect, an electronic wallet. People give him cash and, an SMS or two later, he has added the money to their mobile phones.
"As mobile phone penetration increases in rural areas, it can be difficult getting top-up cards to users but, through this system, anyone can become a top-up dealer," said Derek Sulger, CFO of SmartPay, a mobile payment company spun-off in 2002 from wireless value-added service provider Linktone. [Read more]