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Bank of America plans to introduce wireless banking

The nation's largest bank will announce tomorrow that it's developing banking services that can be used via cell phones, hand-held organizers, and other Internet or wireless appliances.

Bank of America wants to put banking in the palm of its customers hands.

Tomorrow, the nation's largest bank will announce that it's developing banking services that can be used via cell phones, hand-held organizers, and other Internet or wireless appliances.

Bank of America, apparently the first U.S. bank to announce plans for wireless banking, expects to launch its first wireless services early next year. Initially, the services will be focused on providing checking account balances, paying bills, and transferring funds between accounts.

The hand-held device market is booming, and Bank of America hopes to catch that wave. "We are seeing more and more customers doing more and more things with their wireless devices," said Michael DeVico, an executive with Bank of America's online unit. "We believe it is a place our customers are going, so we need to be there."

International Data Corporation projects that 12.2 million non-PC, Internet-access devices will be sold next year, nearly matching the PC sales. Jupiter Communications, meanwhile, projects that more than 10 million mobile phones will be capable of accessing Internet data by 2002.

Signing Bank of America, which has a reputation for strong technology and aggressive interest in the Internet, is a coup for its partner on the project, Canadian start-up 724 Solutions. The fast-growing company, which has 85 employees, is currently conducting a market trial of similar wireless banking and investment services with Bank of Montreal, its affiliated stock brokerage, and wireless carrier Bell Mobility.

Bank of America has been making aggressive moves online of late. Last week, it announced a partnership with Yahoo to provide account access for its customers via My Yahoo and Yahoo Finance. And it signed a similar deal with MSN MoneyCenter and MSN.com

In April, Bank of America announced a pilot test--using its own technology--to let consumers view and pay their bills at its Web site. The bank has 1.4 million online customers.