Visa unveils global cellular payment system

Over at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Visa USA has quietly announced a series of enhancements to its Visa Wave RFID program under which the plan is to allow a cellular handset to act as a true replacement for cash.

The gameplan that Visa is working on with a series of partners, including IBM, Nokia and Verisign, is that Wave-enabled mobiles will be the first phase of a Visa e-cash service.

Over time, Visa wants its mobile phone-based e-cash system to have a life of its own, that is, allow mobile users to send each other small amounts of cash on a person-to-person, as well as person-to-vendor basis.

There's no name for the e-cash system, nor any timescales, but Visa says that the hardware and software is almost there - all that remains is the will from the cellular networks.

In a press statement, Patrick Hauthier, Visa's senior vice president of innovation, said that the company has realised the importance of the mobile channel to the future of payments, and as a medium to deliver to consumers.

Hmmm - interesting stuff. It's clear that Visa realises that the future of e-cash goes beyond plastic cards and into e-token territory, and what better token than the mobile phone most of us carry around with us...