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BilltoMobile CEO: Carrier billing poised to explode

BilltoMobile's Jim Greenwell says the company is seeing about $3 million a month in transactions over the phone, with growth rates ready to jump.

BilltoMobile has been on a roll recently.

The company, which handles purchases of digital goods that customers make on their phone by linking payment to their cell phone bill, just last month signed AT&T as a partner, locking up the fourth and last national wireless carrier. BilltoMobile CEO Jim Greenwell said that the industry is poised to see a rapid explosion of purchases made through the carrier billing model. Rather than enter the credit card information on the phone, a person can use this option to pay for the good and have the expense show up on their monthly phone bill.

He told CNET that the company handles about $3 million in gross transactions a month, which come from places such as dating or gaming Web sites.

The reason Greenwell is so confident: BilltoMobile has done it before. The company has a dominant position handling transactions for carriers in South Korea, where consumers are much more comfortable purchasing digital goods, and handles $4 billion a year in transactions.

In South Korea, the idea of carrier billing for digital goods took a while to adopt. But the company saw 85 percent to 100 percent growth in transactions once it began to take off, a growth rate that remained steady for nearly 10 years.

Culturally, South Korea is different and consumers there who are more prone to purchase goods through their phone, he conceded. In addition, there were fewer payment options in South Korea, as opposed to the myriad of options here in the U.S.

Indeed, a wave of companies is attempting to create digital wallets, including tech giants such as Google, credit card company Visa, and the major wireless carriers. BilltoMobile's operations fit to the right of that category, but Greenwell said he is looking to integrate the business into these other initiatives.

For now, the company's main partners remain the carriers. Its first major partner was Verizon Wireless in May 2010, but the company worked to add the other national players. Greenwell said the service was seeing some adoption at Verizon.

The next goal is to expand the number of online merchants that work with BilltoMobile. The company is working with several hundred in the U.S., compared with 12,500 in South Korea.

The fact that the U.S. carriers already have their customers' credit card information is a valuable tool in promoting mobile payments, he said.