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Visa: Credit Goes to Mobile Payments

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Visa's CEO and President John Philip Coghlan said consumers are ready for mobile payments and now is the time to act. During a keynote address at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Wireless conference here today, Coghlan called mobile devices the most promising payment platform in the world today.

To demonstrate why, Coghlan entertained the CTIA audience with a short video depicting Visa-sponsored Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps making a series of purchases and financial transactions with his mobile phone. In the video, Phelps managed to transfer money to his mother's account, buy a sandwich by waving his phone at a cash register and use a coupon texted to his cell phone by a local merchant, all while walking his dog.

Coghlan considers such functionalities as mobile Internet transactions, fund transfers from person to person and contact-less payments that incorporate Near Field Communication (NFC) technology key aspects in Visa's mobile payments offering. "Visa's mobile platform provides a very comprehensive framework that all parties -- banks, merchants and wireless companies -- can harness to bring mobile payments to life," Coghlan said.

Coghlan cited a Visa consumer survey of 800 mobile phone subscribers reporting that 57 percent showed interest in mobile payments and 90 percent of those interested would pay more for a device with payment capability.

Sixty-four percent of consumers 18 to 42 would consider switching carriers and 58 percent of consumers 18 to 42 would consider switching banks. Coghlan said the numbers demand that the wireless industry gathered at CTIA act now.

"Translating that opportunity into results is going to take a great deal of hard work and collaboration," Coghlan said before proposing a framework for such collaboration. He called for new business models, better tools and technology to support ubiquity, increased security standards and tighter integration between involved parties.

For instance, he called on the industry to produce more NFC-enabled mobile devices, adding that Visa was working with Qualcomm and Kyocera to bring handsets to market that include NFC and support the Visa platform.

Coghlan also announced that digital infrastructure provider VeriSign has agreed to support the Visa mobile payments platform. VeriSign will enable Visa to create customized coupon campaigns, mobile offers and promotion programs, according to a statement.

When Visa first launched its suite of mobile technology tools, applications, security standards and business models at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, one analyst argued that the company's new platform could change how Americans pay for everyday products by 2010.

JupiterKagan research analyst Ed Kountz told internetnews.com at the time that, given recent technology advances, the U.S. market might finally be ready for what Coghlan was pushing in today's keynote.

"Is the market ready for a broad-based deployment of mobile payments in the U.S.? Not yet. But we are further along than we were 18 to 24 months ago," Kountz said.

Visa and Coghlan already have plenty of competition in the mobile payments space.

On March 21, Vodaphone (QUOTE NYSE:VOD> launched M-PESA, a new service that allows Kenyans to send money to family members using their cell phones.

And since March 2006, PayPal customers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada have been able to make payments and transfer funds over the phone and through SMS text messaging.