MasterCard is to work with GSM wireless network operators to pilot an international remittance system using mobile payments technology.
The pilot brings together the MasterCard Money Send program and the mobile phone operators of the GSM Association, and will be targeted at people denied access to traditional bank accounts and other banking infrastructure.
The six-month pilot will initially pair India's largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel with the State Bank of India corresponding with a mobile operator and bank sponsor in another country. For the pilot programme, the recipients of funds will be notified of cash transfers via a text message sent over the mobile networks. They will be able to access those funds via debit and prepaid accounts issued by local banks.
Under the agreement with GSMA, MasterCard intends to provide various payment card products as well as the international transaction switching, clearing and settlement for MasterCard MoneySend via its global network. Participating MasterCard customer banks will provide access to funds via simple card-based accounts. The banks will manage all fund transfers, and provide regulatory compliance, as well as risk and exception management.
Mobile phone penetration in developing markets is currently growing twice as fast as in developed markets, with wireless networks accessible by over 80% of the world's population.
According to the World Bank, the global annual volume of international remittances via formal channels was estimated at $257 billion (USD) in 2005.
In a seperate move, Vodafone is partnering with Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom and Citigroup to test a similar system under which Kenyan workers in the UK will be able to text payments instructions for money transfers to dependants back home. The recipient will receive a text containing a PIN which is then used to collect the cash at a choice of outlets.