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 arena.
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.
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.