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Mobile

Sprint, First Data push mobile payment

The company that processes payments made on Visa and MasterCard credit cards is working with the wireless carrier to get people to use their cell phones to buy things online.

The company that processes payments made on Visa and MasterCard credit cards is working with Sprint PCS to get people to use their cell phones to buy things online.

Sprint spokeswoman Jennie Walsh said the wireless carrier is installing mobile billing software from First Data subsidiary Encorus Technologies into its cell phone network.

Walsh said the two companies are also inviting other wireless carriers to use Encorus software and create a uniform way for shops and merchants to make their goods available on the mobile Web.

"Sprint and (First Data) are breaking the ground on it and pursuing others to join in," Walsh said.

But Walsh and Encorus interim Chief Executive John Duncan acknowledge that mobile commerce, the act of using a cell phone to make a purchase, has been a failure so far. Duncan described the number of Americans using their cell phones to make purchases as "infinitesimally small."

The closest that Americans have been to using mobile commerce was on an IBM television commercial from two years ago showing a woman punching in a few digits on a cell phone and buying a soda from a machine.

The deal announced Wednesday represents "a major milestone," though, because First Data wants to make the mobile Web available as an option for its 2.8 million merchants, Duncan said.

"What we have as an asset is merchant base," Duncan said. First Data is used by 2.8 million businesses to process credit card and debit card payments.

Wireless carriers already using Encorus billing software are Vodafone Group in the United Kingdom and T-Mobile in Germany. Both intend to make the necessary network changes to add the software by the end of the year, Duncan said.