AT&T; plans mobile banking

From Reuters

AT&T; Inc. said Tuesday that it had taken a step toward the long-promised notion of phones replacing credit cards, checks and cash by signing agreements with Wachovia Corp. and several other banks.

The agreements will allow customers of its Cingular Wireless arm, which is being rebranded as AT&T;, and participating banks to manage their accounts and pay bills electronically by using an application on their cellphones.

Although the use of mobile phones for transactions is in its nascent stages in the U.S., such services are already available in parts of Europe and Asia.

In Japan, people commonly shop with their mobile phones by just waving their handset instead of swiping credit cards.


San Antonio-based AT&T;, having tested mobile banking last year, has said it will not charge extra for the service but expects it to attract more users to its wireless Internet service and potentially help it add new users and keep existing ones.

Along with Wachovia, BancorpSouth Inc., Regions Financial Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc. are offering mobile banking to AT&T; customers.

The move is part of an effort by wireless firms around the world to boost revenue and customer loyalty by persuading subscribers to use their cellphones for everything, including Web browsing, text-messaging and playing music and video.

AT&T; said customers could download software from privately held Firethorn Holdings onto their phones. AT&T; plans to include the software in new handsets in the second half of this year and is planning a multimillion-dollar ad campaign.

Firethorn also is acting as an intermediary between AT&T; and the banks.

Wachovia operates in 21 states and Regions operates in 16 states in the Midwest and South, including Texas. SunTrust provides banking in Southeast and mid-Atlantic states and BancorpSouth operates in eight states.

AT&T; Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson talked about the mobile banking service in a keynote speech at the CTIA wireless technology conference Tuesday.

He also commented on combining wireless and fixed-line services. “I’m confident that in the not-too-distant future the concepts of having different handsets for different networks ... will be seen as quaint,” Stephenson said.


For example, he said, cellphone videoconference services that AT&T; plans to launch this summer could eventually work in conjunction with videoconferencing on television screens and desktop computers.