Largely state-owned Belgian communications
provider Belgacom has taken a 40 percent stake in mobile payments
specialist Tunz as it gains ground in the lucrative micro-payments

Tunz, which recently acquired a European
e-money licence, has been brought in to help the former state
telecom monopoly expand into the market for mobile micro-payments,
allowing customers to make a large range of purchases from their
mobile phone.

Tunz will provide the new joint venture,
called Ping Ping, with a unique open payment platform offering a
range of mobile payment solutions and applications, such as
contactless near-field-communication (NFC) payments, national and
international person-to-person payments, internet payments, mobile
ticketing and almost paperless bank transfer forms.

Belgacom has stated it considers mobile
payments to be a crucial field in the development of innovative
services, and to this end in 2008 it took over Mobile-for, a
company that specialised in mobile payments for parking, as well as
recently signing a deal with drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola to
enable customers to pay at vending machines with their mobile
phones using the new joint Ping Ping brand.

Belgacom vice-president of innovation
Stijn Vander Plaetse said: “The Belgacom group considers mobile
payments as a key domain in its development of innovative services.
Based on our recent evolution in mobile parking services, we are
convinced that together with Tunz we will realise a quick uptake of
mobile micro-payments in other domains.”

Tunz was set up in January 2007 by
Grégoire de Streel and Jean Zurstrassen, co-founders of Skynet,
Belgium’s largest internet service provider, which was sold to
Belgacom in 1998. The company was set up based on a mobile phone
wallet system, whereby a mobile phone user can receive payment from
anyone with a mobile phone and a Tunz account. Tunz then charges
whenever a transfer is sent using the service.

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Belgacom’s acquisition of a stake in Tunz
comes shortly after the dominant telecoms operator posted higher
than expected results for 2008, despite revenue being down by 1.5
percent and net profit falling 16.5 percent year-on-year.