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Singtel announces initiative for cross-border interconnectivity of mobile wallets

Singapore’s largest mobile network operator, the Singtel Group, has announced plans to interconnect mobile wallets across different ecosystems through an interoperable platform. This will be the first time that different mobile wallets across different markets are connected to offer seamless cross-border payments at physical merchants.

Singtel’s Open Platform, a group-wide payment gateway, already enables the Group’s mobile customers to make purchases online using direct carrier billing or their respective telco mobile wallets. Now the mobile wallet interconnectivity will allow customers to make cashless payments using their existing home wallet app at retailers when travelling overseas.

The Group plans to start with linking the mobile wallets of Singtel and its regional associates. It will start with Thailand’s largest mobile operator, Advanced Info Services Public Company Limited or AIS. (Singtel has been a strategic partner to AIS for over 15 years. It holds 21% in Intouch Holdings, which owns 40.45% of AIS. Another 23.32% of AIS is held by Singtel Strategic Investments Pte Ltd. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek holds 52% of Singtel.)

The commercial launch of the service is planned for mid-2018 between Singapore and Thailand, where Singtel and AIS have obtained regulatory clearance. This will enable over 1.5 million visitors travelling between Singapore and Thailand each year to use Singtel Dash and my AIS apps at a total of more than 20,000 retail merchant acceptance points in Singapore and Thailand.

Singtel Dash users travelling to Thailand will be able to open the Singtel Dash app to generate a QR code at any participating AIS mPAY merchant to scan. Consumers will see the transaction amount in both foreign and home currencies before payment. This will help travellers avoid the hassle of physically carrying cash and the uncertainty of foreign exchange costs.

Singtel’s initiative to expand the Group’s mobile wallet services will enable the Group's more than 590 million mobile customers to securely and conveniently pay with their mobile wallets when they travel in Asia.

During 2017, there were more than 80 million tourist arrivals into Singtel Group's markets in Asia. Many small merchants remain unbanked in this region but smartphone penetration is high. Hence, mobile payments can provide a simple and secure alternative to travellers.

Other mobile payment apps can, in future, plug into the platform and gain ready access to the Group’s merchant and customer bases across the region.

The Group plans to progressively expand this service from the second half of 2018 to other regional associates, which include Airtel in India, Globe in Philippines and Telkomsel in Indonesia, taking into consideration the respective country’s regulations.

Mr Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group said, "The mobile payments scene in Asia today is fragmented with many different systems and this poses a challenge to the adoption of mobile payments. As a Group, we believe we can bring about change through our cross-border interoperable platform and collaboration with like-minded partners. Our vision is to unlock the growth potential of mobile payments in the region by providing customers with a convenient, seamless experience, and helping small merchants widen their reach to millions of consumers."

“With our customers' digital lifestyles and the growth in intra-region travel, it is a natural progression for us to take our local mobile wallets regional first, by leveraging the strengths and reach of the Singtel Group in Asia,” Mr Lang added.

“We are excited about launching this cross-border payment capability through AIS. The interconnectivity enhances AIS, offering our customers greater convenience and ease in transacting with their Rabbit Line Pay wallet within my AIS app when they travel to Singapore,” Mr Somchai Lertsutiwong, CEO of AIS, commented.

“Cross-border mobile wallet interoperability is crucial to the digital economy and will further support our government in promoting financial inclusion for the Indonesian people. Today’s announcement is a significant step in the right direction. Once we obtain regulatory clearance, we can provide TCASH customers greater convenience whether they are transacting locally or overseas, and give our local merchants new income opportunities from regional travellers.”

This initiative from Singtel is in line with Singapore’s objective to enhance domestic and regional e-payments interconnectivity. E-payments is among the current national strategic projects in Singapore’s Smart Nation plans and multiple initiatives have been announced in the area.

At the Singapore FinTech Festival in 2017, Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence, said that the largest merchant acquirer in Singapore, NETS, will establish a framework to enable cross-border payment linkages with the National Payment Corporation of India or NPCI. NETS is working with NPCI to allow NETS payments at all 2.8 million RuPay point of sale terminals in India. Conversely, a RuPay customer can use his RuPay card or RuPay-enrolled mobile phone to pay at any NETS acceptance point in Singapore.

In addition, local banks, UOB and DBS have made inter-connection arrangements with UnionPay, which is the dominant payment card platform in China. UOB or DBS UnionPay Cards can be used at all UnionPay terminals in China.

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