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T-Mobile wades into mobile payments

The carrier is allowing customers to make purchases on the phone and have the charge sent to their cellphone bill.

T-Mobile USA inched into the mobile payments arena today when it said it would allow customers to purchase goods and services through their phones.


The carrier said it would extend its carrier billing to digital content such as music and games which can be bought with the browser on the phone. Instead of entering credit card information, a customer would authorize the purchase through the phone number account. The charge for the song or game would show up on the person's next phone bill.

It's just the latest development in the rapidly changing mobile payments area, which has drawn everyone from major technology players such as Google to traditional credit card companies such as MasterCard. T-Mobile, like everyone else, is interested in this area because it can potentially take a cut of each transaction.

T-Mobile follows Verizon Wireless, which has touted similar capabilities and recently unveiled a partnership with American Express.

Like Verizon, T-Mobile is part of a joint venture called ISIS, which plans to roll out a mobile-payment system next year. That partnership is designed to let you use your phone to pay for goods at an actual store, which will be equipped with special readers. The carrier billing portion applies only to goods purchased over the phone.

T-Mobile said the billing services will be provided by players such as BilltoMobile and Payfone, among others. The carrier said the payments will be monitored by both itself and its billing service partners. T-Mobile will also provide customers with fraud controls, age-appropriate blocking tools and spending limit tools.

Because carriers don't want an excessive amount charged on the phone bill, T-Mobile has a limit of $25 per individual transaction and a cap of $200 each month.