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Mobile phones could replace credit cards


A woman makes a transaction at WING in Phnom Penh Photograph: Rick Valenzuela/Phnom Penh Post

Mobile money transfer service WING is preparing to launch a mobile wallet service later this year, and ACLEDA Unity is preparing to expand its own mobile services, enabling people to quickly pay for things just by touching their phone to a point-of-sale terminal.

Near-field communications (NFC) technology will be the next addition to WING’s mobile platform to be used for smaller payments, such as purchasing a cup of coffee, as the company tests the service later this year, according to WING chief operations officer Anthony Perkins.

“What we really want to tackle here is near-field communication like the Oyster Card in London or similar services offered in Japan and Australia,” he said.

NFC technology, which one in five smartphones will have by next year, according to Juniper Research, will enable mobile phones to act as cashless wallets. Users will simply swipe their phone over a terminal to complete a transaction.

Sok Sophea, senior vice-president of marketing for ACLEDA Bank, said ACLEDA would be introducing additional mobile services to its Unity mobile banking facility, which is utilised by 68,000 customers. She did not say when the new features would be available, however.

“The system is updated, and only the customers need to be introduced to the new features,” Sophea said.

For customers without smartphones, WING would provide a sticker embedded with an NFC chip that could be placed under an ordinary phone’s case to enable WING’s mobile wallet, Perkins said.

Seventy-four per cent of the population in urban and semi-urban areas of Cambodia had mobile phones, 23 per cent of which were smartphones, Laurent Notin, general manager of Indochina Research, said.

“I think there is more potential in Cambodia for mobile banking and NFC technology than for credit or debit cards as a payment tool, considering a mobile phone is now a commodity and the penetration of mobile phones is significantly higher than the penetration of credit or debit cards.

“Cambodian people are already familiar with mobile banking. NFC technology is an obvious next development for a company like WING.”

Notin said Cambodia’s high reliance on cash for transactions might slow propagation of the mobile wallet system.

“One of the challenges the industry will have to overcome is the high reliance Cambodians have on cash.

“There is a difference between sending money to support the family’s living or for a loan, and using a mobile phone or credit card to pay for a product or service.”

WING’s Perkins said plastic credit cards were not working in Cambodia at all.

“Plastic just hasn’t taken off. I think Cambodia will jump from cash to mobile payments,” he said.

Ten per cent of WING’s 400,000 customers would be classified as affluent or middle-class, in keeping with the socio-economic divide of the country, and some even kept a couple of thousand dollars on their WING account, Perkins said.

Anne Guerineau, general manager of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, the first international coffee-chain franchise to enter Cambodia, said her company did not accept credit or debit cards at the moment.

“We don’t do cards for the moment. But it’s true we’ve started to get requests from guests,” she said.

Guerineau said she would welcome the ability to pay through NFC technology.

“It could be good for all those younger people who get pocket money to spend from their affluent parents.

“This is our target. Gloria Jean’s brought a new concept of coffee retail into the country with the ‘self-service’ style, so this would go along with the modern way of life our guests enjoy.”

Cellcard chief operations officer Kay Lot could not be reached for comment and Sok Sophea from ACLEDA had nothing to say on WING’s plans.

WING was also looking to launch an online payment gateway for Cambodia early next year, Perkins said.

“It’s in our IT pipeline over the next six months. Regardless of whether the market is ready, we will work on it.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Pellechi at



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