CAMBODIA’S largest mobile operator, Mobitel, is to begin offering mobile money transfers in the next few months facilitated by a grant from the GSM Association Foundation, operations manager Kay Lot said Monday.
“The point is to create value-added services for customers,” he said. Although Mobitel, owner of the Cellcard mobile brand, was still finalising the list of services to be offered, he said it would include allowing money transfer by mobile phone.
“Cambodia has a population of over 14.5 million … but less than 4 percent of the population has a bank account,” the GSMA Foundation said in a release. Although the size of the grant was not disclosed by either the GSMA or Mobitel, its Mobile Money for the Unbanked (MMU) project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The goal is to make money transfer easier for those without bank accounts, the release said.
“Cellcard will be providing much-needed financial services such as money transfer, bill payment and airtime top-up to working-class migrants who need to send money home to families in rural areas.”
There are some 7.1 million active SIM cards in Cambodia, according to Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications statistics released earlier this month. This equates to mobile penetration of some 48.9 percent of the total population, although figures do not take into account mobile users with multiple SIM cards.
Establishing the mobile money-transfer services would be relatively simple for Mobitel, Kay Lot said.
“We are implementing the system and it should be out in the next few months. It’s a very straightforward thing to do.”
He added that Mobitel is in discussions with a number of Cambodian banks aimed at facilitating the service.
GSMA representatives had travelled to Cambodia and selected Mobitel because of its degree of market penetration, he said. “We’ve got a substantial track record in terms of delivering quality.”
Phnom Penh-based information security consultant Bernard Alphonso said security is crucial to protecting fund transfers, similar to security requirements for online banking.
“It’s obvious they have to secure the integrity and authenticity of the users. Otherwise, [mobile banking] won’t make sense,” he said.
Mobile banking has been provided in the Kingdom since 2008 by WING, a venture owned by ANZ Bank. ACLEDA Bank has also previously targeted beginning mobile banking later this year, Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing Sok Sophea said previously.
WING spokesperson Lee-Anne Pitcaithly said the firm welcomed the competition, but said that the service should come under regulatory oversight.
“Being a payments service, it is appropriate that this comes under the oversight of the National Bank of Cambodia [NBC],” she wrote in an email, “The NBC is a strong and effective regulator, and I think users of the service would get comfort from it being under NBC supervision.”
The mobile payments service hosted by Mobitel would be limited to about one-third of the market due to interconnectivity with other mobile providers, she said.
WING had access to more of the market, she said. “By the end of the year, we expect WING to have access to two-thirds of the market, because we operate across multiple carriers.” additional reporting by catherine james