Fast fact:
'The European prepaid mobile market is worth €35bn Euros in revenues to mobile operators'

Visa International CEMEA extends innovative mobile payment solution

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Top-up wherever you are, whenever you want

LONDON & PARIS - 13 January 2004 - Visa International CEMEA (Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa region), is pleased to announce the expansion of its new mobile payment solution, enabling users to recharge mobile phone airtime via SMS. Following the extension of the agreement between Visa CEMEA and technology-provider Upaid, the service is to be offered to banks and operators across the CEMEA region. The service was first launched in October in Morocco with Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur (BMCE) and mobile operator Méditel.

The solution enables prepaid mobile phone users to recharge airtime direct from a Visa card account simply by sending an SMS/text message. Not only can consumers top up their own mobile phone, but also that of family and friends. No special handsets or technology are required, making it a truly mass-market mobile payment solution.

Based on a strong customer proposition, the service is provided as a 'plug and play' solution to participating banks and operators, which is ideally suited to the needs of many Visa members in the CEMEA region. Once customers become familiar with using their mobile phone to recharge their airtime, a much wider range of payment applications becomes possible.

Leading provider of mobile payment technology and services, Upaid is providing the technology behind the service, offering advanced platform functionality and a fully hosted service. Visa member banks simply connect into the platform once to gain access to all participating operators, and vice versa for operators. Initially contracted to partner Visa for the Morocco project, Visa and Upaid have now extended their agreement until December 2005 to facilitate wider deployment.

Commenting on the service, Hilary Mitchell, vice president New Payment Solutions, Visa International CEMEA, said: 'At Visa, we constantly challenge existing payment methods and adapt new technologies to bring innovative payment solutions to our customers. We have selected Upaid as our ASP provider on the basis of their platform and their people. The Upaid staff are highly experienced and responsive. The functionality and flexibility of the Upaid platform means that the service can expand in line with CEMEA's strategic roadmap to enable a range of customer friendly solutions for remote payments.'

The mobile market is a rapidly expanding global industry, and within the CEMEA region an estimated US$10.5 billion will be spent on prepaid mobile recharges by 2005. Airtime top-up via a mobile phone and bank account will bring added convenience and cost-efficiencies to operators and consumers alike, whilst reducing the reliance on top-up vouchers - both expensive and inconvenient to administer.

'The Moroccan pilot, although still in the early stages, has been well received and we expect to be in a position to shortly announce similar schemes in other CEMEA markets', added Ms Mitchell.

Ashley Ward, CEO of Upaid commented: 'Visa CEMEA is a pioneer in payment solution development and plays a key role in bringing banks and mobile operators together to offer a practical and highly usable service. They have taken an extremely consumer-oriented approach which we feel is key to encouraging the use of a mobile phone to make payments.'

The Upaid technology enables multiple banks and mobile operators to connect to a host platform that authenticates and processes top-up transactions. The platform interacts with both operators' and banks' systems to authenticate the end-user based on his MSISDN (mobile phone number) combined with a PIN used to initiate transactions. It then handles the transfer of transaction authorisation and top-up message requests between the bank and the operator.

About Visa International: Visa is the world's leading payment brand generating US$2.7 trillion in annual card sales volume. Visa has unsurpassed acceptance in more than 150 countries. The Visa organization plays a pivotal role in developing innovative payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions and their cardholders. Visa is a leader in Internet based payments and is pioneering the creation of u-commerce, or universal commerce—the ability to conduct commerce anywhere, anytime, and any way. For more information, visit

About Upaid: Upaid is the first company to offer a service enabling banks, operators and merchants to participate in an open mobile payment community. The company's own proprietary technology enables multiple parties to plug into Upaid's centrally hosted authentication and service delivery centres and offer customers mobile payments anytime, anywhere. Upaid solves the connectivity problem that banks, operators, merchants and card associations face when seeking to offer wide-scale mobile payment services to their customers.

For further information, please contact :

Jessamy Smiley
Visa International CEMEA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7225 8127

Nick Giles or Sam Routley
MS&L;/ for Upaid
Tel.: +44 (0)20 7878 3151 / 3137
Nick Giles / Sam Routley

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