Western Union Project Adds Middle East Partner
Byline: Steve Bills
Western Union Co. said its efforts to develop a mobile phone remittance system got a boost when it struck an alliance with Orascom Telecom Holding S.A.E. of Cairo.
Orascom, a mobile carrier that delivers wireless services in six countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, serves "key remittance corridors" for migrant workers sending money to family members back home, said M. Leland Dill, a senior vice president at Western Union and its head of digital ventures.
Orascom Telecom's 77 million subscribers are in Algeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. The company also acquired a license this year to offer mobile services in North Korea.
Observers said using mobile phones for remittance services could offer new opportunities for transferring money, butthe technology likely will require a coordinated, global effort by regulators to curb money laundering and terrorism financing, they said. Western Union is collaborating with wireless carriers and central banks in several countries to develop a mobile remittance system that adheres to laws and regulations abroad.
The Orascom deal was announced last week. Mr. Dill said he expects Western Union to make further announcements as the mobile remittance services go live in each country.
Western Union signed an agreement in October 2007 to develop international money-transfer services with the GSM Association, a trade group representing 750 mobile phone operators that use the Global System for Mobile standard for wireless communications.
Western Union began offering those services in the second quarter; consumers can now send mobile money transfers from some Western Union locations in Hawaii, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Singapore to subscribers of the Globe Telecom and Smart Communications networks in the Philippines.
On the originating side, the process is similar to Western Union's traditional transfer service. …