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Carriers sold on shopping by cell phone

Verizon is working with Netpace to let customers shop on their cell phones without using a credit card. Other carriers are expected to follow suit.

Major U.S. cell phone providers are giving mobile commerce a new try, after years of failing to muster any fervor among customers for shopping with a cell phone's Internet connection.

Verizon Wireless plans to announce on Monday that its subscribers will be able to bill any transaction made using their cell phone's Net connection directly to their Verizon account instead of a credit card or bank account, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. The new service uses a version of text messaging that's beginning to become popular in the United States.

Wireless messaging specialist Netpace created the technology behind Verizon's new service. Netpace is also in talks with Cingular Wireless, AT&T Wireless and Sprint, according to Netpace Chief Executive Vajih Khan.

A Verizon Wireless representative did not return a call seeking comment. Khan would not divulge further details of the carrier's plans.

Despite years of hype, just one in 10 cell phone users last year made purchases using their mobile phones, generating about $6.9 billion in revenue worldwide.

But analyst Naqi Jaffery of Telecom Trends International said he expects bigger things this year from mobile commerce, especially because U.S. carriers are "now getting more serious about it." Also, wireless subscribers are beginning to use Short Message Service. The text-only messages, up to 160 characters long, are now sent about 2 billion times a month in the United States. "These things will begin to add up," he said.

He believes that by 2008, there will be 1.67 billion mobile commerce users generating more than $554 billion in revenue.