Singtel Group, owner of Singapore Telecom, launched a QR code-based cross-border mobile payments alliance with Thailand’s largest digital bank, Kasikornbank and Thailand’s largest mobile phone operator Advanced Info Service or AIS.
The mobile payment alliance, called VIA, will enable consumers in Singapore and Thailand to make purchases at over 1.6 million stores currently serviced by Kasikornbank’s merchant acquiring arm. The VIA QR code will enable payments to be processed from each company’s individual digital wallet, Singtel’s Dash, AIS’ GLOBAL Pay and Kasikornbank’s Rabbit Line Pay. The launch of the brand is meant to serve consumers both locally and as they travel between the two countries.
“This is a game changer for the Singtel Group and the region. The VIA alliance is aimed at unifying Asia’s fragmented payments scene by connecting different mobile wallet systems across the region,” stated Mr. Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group, in the press release.
The VIA alliance is unique from the standpoint that it marries both telco-driven mobile wallets and a financial services-driven wallet onto the same QR code-based acceptance scheme.
The driving force is the two mobile operators who see value in maintaining or growing market share in the face of ever-expanding competitive Chinese wallets such as Alipay and WeChat Pay. The launch of VIA brings echoes memories of the failed attempt by the three major U.S. mobile operators to launch their own proprietary wallet service.
The explosion of QR code-based wallets in Asia has raised concerns by governments, merchants about issues with merchant acceptance. In effort to minimize the confusion at the POS terminal, the government of Singapore recently launched a unified QR code standard for the island nation that will be adopted by 27 different payment schemes including Alipay, WeChat Pay, Singtel Dash, Visa, Mastercard, and also VIA.
The Singtel Group is actively working to onboard regional partners onto the VIA payments alliance including Airtel (India’s second largest mobile service provider), Globe (one of the Philippines’ largest mobile operators), Telkomsel (Indonesia’s largest mobile operator), and China’s Ping An eWallet, owned by Ping An Insurance Group.
“VIA will enhance the payment experience for millions of consumers including our Group’s customer base of more than 700 million,” Lang said. “We see a tremendous opportunity to drive the adoption of mobile payments which supports ASEAN’s push towards financial inclusion and vision of a single digital market.”
The rival Alipay wallet recently demonstrated a “cashless” vacation experience for its users with the Singapore Tourism Bureau (STB).
The exercise was conducted to showcase Alipay’s reach within Singapore in order to convince Chinese tourist visiting the island country that they would be able to travel without using any cash, only relying on the ability to use Alipay to purchase meals, accommodations, transportation and souvenirs. This is the second “cashless” destination stunt Alipay has conducted, with the first being in Finland in late 2017.