CEBIT - Rivals Vodafone, T-Mobile team on mobile payments

Two European mobile-telephone operators who are normally tough competitors have joined forces to develop a system by which customers can pay for purchases directly from their wireless handsets.

Germany's T-Mobile International AG, based in Bonn, and Vodafone Group PLC, with its head office in Newbury, England, announced the project Thursday here at the CeBIT trade show.

The system will allow users to send stored credit card or bank numbers from a "virtual wallet" via their mobile phones in order to pay for goods and services at the touch of a button, said Vodafone spokesman Jon Earl in a telephone interview. Alternatively, they can choose to charge small transactions directly to their mobile-phone bill.

Vodafone's version of the platform is currently being tested in the U.K. and Germany, and is expected to be made commercially available in those countries toward the end of this year, Earl said. He added that Vodafone and T-Mobile are discussing possible cooperation with other mobile operators, but declined to name them.

"The whole point is that we're being open and saying, 'Let's work together and develop a common platform,'" he said.

A spokesman for T-Mobile was not immediately available for comment.

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