Simpay latest – Jim Wadsworth on the record

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With the announcement that MPSA (Mobile Payment Service Association) has re-branded to ‘Simpay,’ MPW interviewed chief marketing officer Jim Wadsworth to get his take on the current outlook. Simpay’s commercial launch will be in 2004.

Other than the brand name, has anything changed for the MPSA?

No, absolutely not, it’s steady as she goes. I’ll give you a bit of background and then we can pick the bones out of that.

The initiative has come out of some original discussions between Vodafone and T-Mobile and the software provider Brokat, now Encorus, for enabling server side wallets for credit/debit and billed transactions. Having individually come to this conclusion, we got together and decided that it would be great if ‘my customers could shop at your merchants.’

After the initial announcement at CeBIT in 2002, we were approached by Orange and Telefonica Moviles to get integrated mobile payment interoperability.

Do all of the companies have the same stake in Simpay?

Yes, all four have put in the same amount of money because of the way the company is structured; it’s a company limited by guarantee as opposed to classical equity. It’s therefore a member-based organization, not a share-based organization. Very similar to the structure of Visa in terms of real world payment solutions.

Are you becoming the Visa/MasterCard of the mobile payments world?

You can think of it in many ways, the Visa and MasterCard proxy is relevant in many ways. For example we are a member-based structure and the way the voting rights will be allocated between telcos after an initial period (will be) driven by a blend of value and volume of transactions.

What is Simpay’s role?

If you can envisage five boxes, the first box is the customer, the second is the mobile operator, Simpay sits in the middle, the fourth one is various forms of merchant acquirer and the fifth is the merchants and content providers.

Simpay will enable multiple merchant acquirers to transact with multiple mobile operators. The operators will handle the customer relationships; the merchant acquirers will manage the merchant and content provider relationships. Simpay’s role is to sit in the middle and do the minimum necessary to make sure that everybody can talk to everybody and transact with everybody.

That means things like, if you think about an individual transaction, if a customer finds their way to a particular content provider, they will see the Simpay logo and they will know that they can pay via their mobile.

They click that (logo) and a message flows from the merchant to the merchant acquirer saying, ‘I have a customer who wishes to transact.’

The merchant acquirer will pass that information on to Simpay, Simpay will work out which operator that particular customer belongs to and pass the transaction request onto the mobile operator.

So is it the operator who deals with the transaction?

Let’s say for a credit card transaction, a Telefonica customer is in London. They have found their way to TicketMaster.com and there are four tickets to a show.

The customer will see the Simpay logo and click on this. Once that has been done, the dialogue will then be conducted in the home language, in this case Spanish, saying ‘This merchant accepts these cards, which one do you want to use and what is your four digit PIN?’

This solves the ergonomic problems as all the card numbers are pre-registered, so just a PIN is required and all of the dialogue is held in their own language with their own operator. If Telefonica are telling you implicitly that this merchant is OK, it’s going to drive the transaction.

Simpay’s role therefore is to work out who the customer belongs to and send the transaction to them. When that comes back, what happens is that Telefonica will send, through us the relevant (let us say) Visa card details which we will pass on to the merchant as a normal Visa transaction.

How easy and quick is it for Simpay to tr