Dubai: Telecom operator etisalat has announced the launch of its mobile phone-based commerce service — etisalat Wallet — in the UAE.

The app, available on Google and Apple app stores, allows customers to make purchases, pay utility bills, transportation fees, top-up etisalat’s mobile credit and much more.

“The service is available in 17 of its global operations. The scope of services introduced in each market varies based on consumer demands, market maturity as well as regulatory requirements,” Khaled Al Khouly, chief consumer officer at etisalat (UAE), told Gulf News.

Moreover, he said that etisalat is utilising a “less is more” approach by focusing on introducing the most meaningful and, at the same time, simple-to-use functions in the initial phase of the launch.

“As we move forward, we will introduce more advanced services that align with our customers’ comfort level and demand,” he said.

However, he said that facilitating funds transfer between friends and family members, directly from their mobile phones, will not be available right now.

“Etisalat is offering services in line with the UAE’s Central Bank regulations. The Central Bank has currently executed exceptional work in the development of the UAE’s ‘digital payments’ regulatory framework. Etisalat’s mobile-to-mobile money transfer service expansion will follow immediately after this regulatory framework is ramified and once we secure Central Bank approvals,” he said.

In many countries, etisalat already offers cross-border money remittance service.

Even though many Gulf countries like the UAE have some of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world, studies show that when it comes to banking interactions, the figure is still low.

The Mobile Wallet is the financial component of the Smart Government initiative. Smart Government has identified over 90 services provided by government departments requiring digital payment. The Mobile Wallet has been designed to allow these to be made from a purpose-designed platform that interfaces with all banks operating in the UAE.

The UAE Banks Federation (UBF) in 2014 also formally launched the implementation of the Mobile Wallet project.

The project is expected to be implemented in a number of phases. The UBF is coordinating the project with banks such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Adib, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Emirates NBD, Mashreq, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Standard Chartered, First Gulf Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank.

Al Khouly said that etisalat’s m-commerce is accessible around the clock directly from customers’ mobile phones while in the UAE or travelling abroad and serves as the new digital wallet, thereby eliminating the need and risk of carrying cash.

He said that research has shown that m-banking and m-payments can help lower the transaction costs of money transfer, increase the flow of money by making it easier to send across smaller amounts and introduce secure financial transactions and management without bank accounts.

“Etisalat Wallet gives customers immediate access to thousands of merchants and retailers already enrolled to the programme, including the new Careem partnership announced this month. Moreover, with the presence in over 10,000 locations across UAE, etisalat by itself is one of the biggest merchants in the region,” he said.

Requirements to open a mobile wallet

• Customers need to have a valid Etisalat mobile account — postpaid or Wasel prepaid.

• A valid credit/debit/prepaid card from Visa or MasterCard.

• All you need is a PIN every time you want to carry out a transaction.

Key benefits:

• Accessible 24/7 directly via mobile phone.

• Rewards for each transaction.

• Pay utility bills.

• Purchase parking ticket in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

• Top up etisalat credit, including for family members.

• Purchase goods and services at participating local merchants and major international store chains.

• Be in control of transactions with automatic reports, notifications and account management features.

• Provides high level of end-to-end security.

• Carrier billing or direct payment acceptance for purchases made from leading application stores including Google Play, Ovi, Microsoft and BlackBerry, and soon on Apple iTunes.

— N. K. C