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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 13:37 GMT
Mobile phones to send money home
Mobile phone user
Almost three billion people worldwide have a mobile phone
Mobile phone operators and banks are backing a scheme to allow those who work abroad to use their phones to send money home.

The pilot programme, announced by mobile operator trade body the GSM Association, could make sending cash easier and cheaper for migrant workers.

The initiative is backed by 19 mobile firms representing over 600 million customers in over 100 countries.

Vodafone and Telecom Italia are among mobile firms backing the scheme.

Reduced costs

The system will allow a person to put cash onto their mobile, and order it to be sent to a mobile phone number abroad, where the recipient receives a text message saying that money has arrived.

As a result, the costs of sending small amounts of cash could be reduced to just a few percent, from 24% currently.

A typical deal to send $200 back to relatives in a migrant worker's home country cost between $15 and $26 on average in 2005, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Mastercard, the payment processing firm, will pilot a global hub that will link together national markets with local payment systems.

'Immense benefits'

Less than one billion people have a bank account worldwide but close to three billion now have a mobile phone, according to the GSMA.

"The only way to sustainably serve these people is through mobile communications," said GSMA spokesman Ben Soppitt.

If successful, the initiative could double the number of recipients of international remittances to more than 1.5 billion and quadruple the size of the market from $230bn (117bn) to more than $1 trillion (513bn) by 2012, the GSMA says.

Sunil Mittal, chief of Bharti Airtel, India's largest mobile operator said the scheme would provide "immense benefits to people in developing nations such as India".

India is both the world's fastest growing mobile services market and the biggest recipient of overseas remittances, accounting for around 10% of the world market.

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