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Visa plans bill payment for mobile devices

The credit card giant is partnering with wireless services firm Aether Systems to bring credit card payment services to wireless devices.

Credit card giant Visa today said it has partnered with wireless services firm Aether Systems to bring credit card payment services to wireless devices.

Visa and Aether will jointly develop wireless electronic bill payment and other financial and e-commerce applications that support credit card purchases on pagers, cellular phones and other handheld devices, the companies said in a statement. They plan to roll out the new services and products this summer.

Aether provides wireless data services, including real-time stocks quotes, financial data, stock trading and Internet access. Visa last fall launched a separate Net unit to step up its e-commerce efforts.

Under the agreement, Visa and Aether said they will jointly market, develop and pilot the new products as well as work together on wireless standards.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The projected figures for wireless phone subscribers have prompted a number of technology providers to plan new services for handheld devices.

There were 220 million digital wireless phone subscribers worldwide in 1998 and 150 million Internet users, a Yankee Group study estimates. In about four years, there will be more than half a billion Internet accounts and roughly 1 billion digital wireless phone subscriptions. Internet-enabled "smart phones" are expected to have 48 million users worldwide by 2002 and 204 million by 2005, the research firm reported.

One of the first services Visa and Aether will develop is an e-wallet service for use in handheld devices. Visa said the service essentially mirrors the online digital wallet service that the company already offers.

Online wallets aim to make Internet shopping easier by letting consumers register just once to shop at multiple retail outlets. Typically, online shoppers are required to enter their names, shipping addresses and credit card numbers before a site lets them make purchases. Last October, software giant Microsoft launched an online wallet service for MSN Passport.

In related news, the Visa-Aether partnership today announced a deal with CyberBills, an online bill management service, to jointly market and sell applications for mobile devices. Under the deal with CyberBills, consumers will be able to pay various bills via handheld devices, along with securely storing bill and payment information.

Consumers can access the new wireless service through StatusFactory.com, the consumer site created by CyberBills, this summer.

Other products and services developed through the Visa-Aether alliance won't be sold through Visa itself but rather offered through Visa banking members. Visa members, which include banking giants FirstUSA, Fleet-BankBoston and Bank of America, will have the option of adding these new products to their existing offerings, the companies said.