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Cellular South sees future with wallets without wires

The ubiquitous cell phone — now there’s another reason for not leaving home without it. In the near future Cellular South, the nation’s largest privately held wireless provider, hopes consumers will need nothing but their cell phone and driver’s license when away from home. That’s because of WirelessWallet, their latest advance in mobile commerce.

WirelessWallet service is a new technology that enables consumers to make purchases and payments using their cell phones. A consumer trial is underway in Jackson and Memphis that will last for three months and engages multiple retailers who have been provided with readers developed to scan cell phones.

“WirelessWallet acts as a digital credit card. A person can pay for purchases with their cell phone, scan it and process it like a credit card,” said Jim Richmond, director of corporate communications for Cellular South. “The biometrics in the phone reads the fingerprint. It’s really an advanced, high-technology piece.”

Fifty merchants in the Jackson area have been set up with cell phone readers to participate in the trial. Richmond says it will take a year to a year and a half for this new twist on mobile commerce to be accepted.

“I’ve seen a lot of products and this is the best I’ve seen,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement. ‘Wow’ was the word we heard a lot at the launching of it at Primos Restaurant.”

It has not been determined what, if any, cost there will be for consumers using WirelessWallet. Richmond said it will require a different telephone with a chip inside to act as a credit card. The company is planning to roll out this product no later than early 2008.

“This test will help us determine target segments for WirelessWallet,” he said. “It is skewered to young people and anyone who uses credit cards. Feedback has been positive among all age groups, and the testing will give us more feedback.”

Greg Latour, senior vice president of technology development, said the WirelessWallet trial gives Cellular South the opportunity to listen to customers in two significant markets, learn from their hands-on experiences and improve an already premier mobile payment product.

“Conducting a comprehensive multi-city test gives us the experience and broad-based knowledge to perfect the product and deliver the best, most reliable mobile payment service to our customers,” he said.

Richmond said giving consumers more ways to manage their lives is the biggest driver for developing this product. “We are constantly looking for ways to make things better for consumers and help them manage all the many things in their lives,” he said. “There is some consumer demand for this. Mobile commerce is relatively new and it does make it easier to manage. We feel the next frontier is mobile commerce.”

In the realm of mobile commerce, Cellular South delivered OboPay, a pre-paid debit card that can move money by cell phone. “We are positioning ourselves around the country as a leader in mobile commerce,” Richmond said.

During the 90-day test period, testers will receive $300 to use at participating retailers in Jackson and Memphis with their specially enabled Kyocera phones. It marks the first time a regional cellular carrier has conducted a multi-city test of this technology.

To ensure customer security, the new technology features innovations to make a phone safer than a debit or credit card. Users will set up a six-digit password upon loading credit card information and will be asked to enter it before each transaction. The biometrics fingerprint technology is included in the phones as a primary security measure, requiring users to scan their finger over a sensor on the back of the phone prior to transactions.

“Should something happen to your phone, the WirelessWallet can be deactivated easily and quickly over the air,” Richmond said. “Transactions are completed through a direct connection between the phone and the reader, so it’s going through a wireless network of towers and there is no ability to intercept credit card information.”

Partners with Cellular South for this innovation include: Kyocera Wireless, a leading global manufacturer o wireless devices and accessories; ViVOtech, providing the payment software that resides on the handset; and, Mpact, providing trial development and management services, reader deployment and delivery services.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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