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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

South Korea's Blitzkrieg -Mobile Banking via Bweek

South Korea is taking an unassailable lead in communications and in deploying communications based applications.Mobile banking has taken off in a big way - Bweek writes, "In June, some 581,000 Koreans used their cell phones to complete a total of 4 million banking transactions, the Bank of Korea, the central bank, reports. All of South Korea's retail banks now offer mobile banking, and every month, more than 300,000 people buy new phones equipped with a special slot where subscribers can plug in a tiny memory chip with their banking data and an encryption code for secure transactions."Korea has long been a test bed for the global wireless industry, and if banking by wireless phone catches on here, the rest of the world may follow. Already, tens of thousands of restaurants and stores have terminals that read credit-card information from phones via infrared beams, letting customers avoid the hassle of swiping cards. And Seoul commuters can have bus and subway fares deducted from their accounts by flashing their phones as they pass the turnstiles.Banks have high hopes for the service. Koreans have already set up more than 24 million online bank accounts. Given that more Koreans own cell phones than computers, and the convenience of being able to bank anytime and anyplace, bank execs believe most Net banking clients -- and many others -- will eventually sign up for mobile banking. That will likely save banks a bundle. Transactions made by cell phone cost a fifth of what face-to-face transactions do.. Bank executives say that with many transactions going mobile, the branch employees can focus on consulting or other high-value activities.The service provider benefits too - while increasing penetration and use of cell phones,the service providers get a new set of customers hooked on using their cell phones for more than voice calls. Whereas other trendy new mobile services such as multimedia e-mail, video clips, and music downloads appeal largely to the young, banking is most popular among people in their 30s and 40s.This would surely count as another example of technology and services bringing in a multiplier effect to the economy.
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