Mobile phones have been transformed into so many things — from the core conversation platform into mini computers, to books, wallets, and now, into credit cards.
Airtel Africa, Standard Chartered Bank and MasterCard have announced an arrangement that will enable mobile phone users to make online purchases from merchants around the world.
Called the world’s first virtual card, Airtel 1time Shopping Card operates as a wallet residing in a mobile phone. It generates a 16 digit number at the user’s request, and this number can be used to make a financial transaction. When the transaction is complete, a confirmation message is sent to the consumer’s handset.
“This launch of the world’s first virtual number on a mobile card marks a big milestone in mobile commerce,” Manoj Kohli, the international chief executive officer and joint managing director of Airtel, said.
Though launched in Africa, the possibility of similar services coming to other parts of the world can’t be ruled out, especially in India as it is Airtel’s home turf. Current regulations do not allow such services in India. Besides, mobile wallets can be used to store only up to Rs 5,000 in India, so this service would not make much sense anyway. However, the mobile payment system in India is gaining momentum with two of the largest operators in partnerships with two large banks for creating mobile banking services.
The second opportunity that this service presents is the ability to turn the mobile phone into a full-fledged credit card. Operators can provide a platform that works as a credit card such as Airtel 1time, and can make use of the billing platform they already possess.
Mobile networks can also be used to push advertisements and special offers to people, who can immediately make purchase decisions thanks to this virtual card.
Airtel recently launched Airtelmoney, a mobile wallet service, in Gurgaon, Haryana. The virtual card can be extended to Airtelmoney users as well, though officially there is no word on this.