SINGAPORE - The Singtel Group plans to roll out mobile wallet interoperability across its network of regional associates in Asia by mid-2018, it said on Tuesday (March 20).
Mobile wallet customers of Singtel and the group's various associate telcos would then be able to make cashless payments in their home currency, using their home telco's app, at physical merchants while abroad.
Thailand's AIS will be the first regional associate to join the programme.
Singtel's goal is to bring the Philippines' Globe, Indonesia's Telkomsel and India's Airtel on board from the second half of 2018 onwards, pending regulatory approval.
Regulators have already given the green light for the partnership between Singtel's Dash payments app and Thai counterpart myAIS, said the CEO of Singtel's International Group, Arthur Lang.
Globe has a GCash service, while Telkomsel's is called TCASH and Airtel offers the Airtel Money wallet.
Mr Lang told The Business Times over the phone: "Rather than just hold stakes in various companies and leverage on the core businesses, we want to do more."
Some 50 million of the Singtel Group's more than 590 million regional mobile customers use their telcos' mobile wallets. This includes the more than half a million Singtel Dash users in Singapore.
The group also has about one million merchant points that accept these telcos' mobile wallet payments regionwide.
Holidaymakers and business travellers are a key target for the expanded payments service, as are small and medium-sized merchants in South-east Asia.
Mr Lang noted that the new service serving physical merchant points follows the Singtel Open Platform, which is for online transactions across the group.
Saying that the latest move would see group members "hunting as a pack", he added that "there's nothing stopping other partners from joining" the interoperable wallet network.
But Mr Lang remarked that "we definitely have our hands full this year" and he could not commit to a timeline for extending the interoperable wallet service to Australian subsidiary Optus or to associates in Africa.
He called the mobile wallet market in both Singapore and the region "fragmented" and argued that Singtel can differentiate itself by being interoperable across several different telcos across Asia."We don't profess that we're everywhere, but these wallets talk to one another," said Mr Lang.
Meanwhile, Somchai Lertsutiwong, CEO of AIS, said in a statement: "The interconnectivity enhances AIS, offering our customers greater convenience and ease in transacting with their Rabbit Line Pay wallet within myAIS app when they travel to Singapore."
Ririek Adriansyah, CEO of Telkomsel, said: "Cross-border mobile wallet interoperability is crucial to the digital economy and will further support our government in promoting financial inclusion for the Indonesian people. Today's announcement is a significant step in the right direction.
"Once we obtain regulatory clearance, we can provide TCASH customers greater convenience whether they are transacting locally or overseas, and give our local merchants new income opportunities from regional travellers."