Western Union and the GSMA are developing a commercial and technical framework that mobile operators can use to deploy services that enable consumers to send and receive low-denomination, high-frequency money transfers using their mobile phones. The first commercial services that make use of the framework are anticipated to be rolled out beginning in the second quarter of 2008.
The framework forms a key element of both Western Union's mobile strategy and the GSMA's Mobile Money Transfer program which aims to use the reach and ease of mobile money transfer services to expand the mobile financial services market and stimulate social and economic development. Mobile money transfer services will make it simple, quick and affordable for more people to send small amounts of money through a conventional and regulated system. Both Western Union and the GSMA believe there is an opportunity to create and grow a large new market for low-denomination transfers.
"Mobile networks now cover more than 80 percent of the world's population and 3 billion people1 have a mobile phone, creating an unprecedented opportunity to extend the benefits of financial services to the majority of the world's families for the first time," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA. "Mobile money transfers are a key driver in the development of a potentially vast market for financial services delivered via the mobile phone."
"Western Union has a long tradition of innovation," said Western Union President and CEO Christina Gold. "Our focus on the mobile money transfer space is an important step in expanding the range of Western Union's global services to a new category of consumers. Our brand, extensive network, and compliance capabilities, combined with the GSMA members' market reach, uniquely positions Western Union in the mobile money transfer marketplace."
The Western Union mobile service will connect operators to Western Union's existing global money transfer system, which processed approximately 17 percent of the world's remittance volume in 2006. Once connected to the Western Union service, operators will be able to use their own "mobile wallet" software to enable person-to-person mobile money transfers over Western Union's cross-border remittance network. The Mobile Money Transfer service will enable consumers to transfer money to or from mobile wallets and will offer a global network of Western Union Agent locations for cash-to-mobile and mobile-to-cash transactions.
Thirty-five GSMA operators with more than 800 million customers in more than 100 countries are participating in the GSMA Mobile Money Transfer program. Led by Sunil Mittal, the Chairman and Managing Director of Bharti Airtel, the Mobile Money Transfer program is overseen by a steering committee made up of representatives from Bharti, MTN, Orange, Orascom, Smart, Telenor and VimpelCom.
"Remittances are playing a vital role in the social and economic development of India and many other developing countries," said Mr. Mittal. "This initiative will bring down the cost of lower-value and high-frequency mobile remittances considerably and also enable smaller amounts to be transferred in a fast and secure fashion, thereby benefiting millions of people in the developing world."
Western Union and its affiliates provide money transfer services across 200 countries through a network of more than 312,000 Agent locations.