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Rogers, Telus embrace carrier billing for mobile content

Canadian carriers Rogers Wireless and Telus have integrated Bango Inc.’s mobile payment platform into BlackBerry App World to enable carrier billing for applications. 

By partnering with these carriers in Canada, Bango claims this brings the total number of subscribers it reaches through carrier billing in North America to more than 200 million. While carrier billing for digital content is a growing trend, Bango also provides mobile credit card and PayPal for payments that cannot be charged to the carrier bill. 

“A much more efficient direct carrier billing method is starting to take over as the mobile content world has gotten a lot more sophisticated with app stores and live streaming video,” said Anil Malhotra, senior vice president of marketing at Bango, Cambridge, England. “With direct carrier billing via the mobile Web or applications, consumers can browse to a mobile web site or app, find something they like and click to pay, not like the old days of sending a text message and getting a text confirmation back. 

“This has been stimulated and catalyzed by the rise of smartphones,” he said. “Premium SMS has pretty much been consigned to history in most of the world. 

“People expect an Amazon-like payment experience—they want to click and pay.” 

Bango provides the technology that enables commerce for businesses targeting the growing market of Internet-enabled mobile phone users. Bango’s products collect payment from mobile users for online content and services, and provide analytics for mobile marketing campaigns and sites.  

Digital content
The Canadian carriers Rogers Wireless and Telus are now offering direct carrier billing via Bango, initially launching on BlackBerry App World. 

“If you buy a BlackBerry app, you’ll pay through Bango billing,” Mr. Malhotra said. “That is expanding to more carriers. 

“Most of the transactions we process are carrier-billed, but 15 percent are not,” he said. “A bigger share of spend is moving from fixed ecommerce Internet to mobile devices. 

“Commerce is moving inexorably from desktops to mobile devices.” 

Bango’s mobile payment technology is designed to migrate ecommerce services from desktop PCs to mobile phones and tablets. 

Developers and publishers can use the Bango platform to enable one-click payment to mobile customers’ carrier phone bill. 

Mr. Malhotra said that mobile payments are benefiting from the increase in smartphone usage, led initially by the iPhone. However, Apple requires all payments to be made through iTunes. 

With smartphones becoming increasingly popular, merchants can partner with Bango to enable mobile payment for products sold on BlackBerry, Android, Nokia and other platforms.
Mr. Malhotra said that outside Apple’s walled garden, direct carrier billing for apps and mobile Web content has replaced premium SMS as the payment standard for mobile commerce. 

Driven by the greater flexibility and reliability of direct carrier charging, Bango claims that the growth opportunity for mcommerce is enormous, as usage of Internet services migrates en masse from PCs to mobile devices. 

Bango lets users to place charges on their phone bills for purchases made directly from mobile devices, including tablets. The company’s mobile device billing is automatically authenticated through its partnerships with mobile carriers such as Rogers and Telus. 

Mr. Malhotra said that this year Bango is opening up mobile billing in Latin America and key Asian territories, and he forecasts coverage of 1 billion paying customers by year-end. 

Bango’s carrier billing partnerships for content and services include Vodafone in 2004, AT&T in 2005, Orange in 2006, Telefonica in 2007, Sprint in 2008 and T-Mobile in 2009. The company is currently in negotiations with Verizon Wireless. 

“Smartphones have catalyzed a lot of consumer interest for paying for content on their handsets, as major categories on consumer services are being digitized,” Mr. Malhotra said. “There is increasing digitization of music, TV, movies and books, which are increasingly discovered and consumed on mobile devices, whether they are smartphones and tablets. 

“You would expect that mobile payment would be an integral part of that experience,” he said. “Consumers expect that same level of sophisticated payments you expect from Amazon on any store on their mobile device. 

“As we’re starting to see these content and services becoming increasingly digitized and mobile-centric, merchants have to enable people to pay for that via mobile, as a bigger share of spend going to be coming through mobile devices—with mobile commerce, consumers actually need and want multiple payment options.” 

Final Take
BlackBerry App World