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April 10, 2007 > Get ready to bank by cell phone

Get ready to bank by cell phone

By Bruce Meyerson, Associated Press

AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless plans to introduce mobile banking capabilities with four prominent banks, the biggest such initiative in the United States but still shy of the industry's long-discussed goal of turning cell phones into credit cards.

The deals with Wachovia Corp., Regions Financial Corp., SunTrust Banks Inc. and BancorpSouth Inc. will enable AT&T customers who bank with those companies to use their cell phones to check account balances, transfer funds between accounts and pay bills.

The application, developed by Firethorn Holdings LLC, will be available immediately for BancorpSouth customers and later this year for cell users who bank with the other three financial companies. AT&T will not charge customers for the service beyond its data usage fees.

To use the new service on an existing AT&T mobile phone, customers will need to download a program. AT&T plans to begin embedding software on new handsets starting in the second half of 2007.

The application downloads account and bill information to the handset, so users will be able to view account balances, transfer funds, and receive and pay bills when their devices are not connected to AT&T's mobile Internet service. If a device is lost or stolen, the data can be remotely cleared from the device.

The AT&T deployment, announced Tuesday, marks a major step forward in a sector that's taken years longer than predicted to take shape.

However, the U.S. market remains a big leap away from the long-discussed goal of embedding small transmitters in handsets for contactless payments similar to the car windshield devices commonly used to pay bridge and highway tolls.

Wireless service providers, device makers and the major credit card providers have remained at a stalemate over a business model for how to share deployment costs and transaction revenues.

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