SINGAPORE: As consumers in Asia increasingly opt for digital payments in place of cash, Singtel Group has announced plans to create a platform that connects mobile wallet users across the region.

The company, one of the largest telcos in Southeast Asia, revealed in a statement that it would link its Open Platform gateway to its regional partners, starting with AIS of Thailand.

Singtel estimates that more than 1.5 million visitors travel between Singapore and Thailand each year and the new initiative will enable users of Singtel Dash and AIS-affiliated apps to make payments to around 20,000 merchants in both countries.

“The mobile payments scene in Asia today is fragmented with many different systems and this poses a challenge to the adoption of mobile payments,” explained Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group.

“As a Group, we believe we can bring about change through our cross-border interoperable platform and collaboration with like-minded partners,” he added.

“Our vision is to unlock the growth potential of mobile payments in the region by providing customers with a convenient, seamless experience, and helping small merchants widen their reach to millions of consumers.”

The digital tie-up with AIS is expected to be commercially available in mid-2018, but Bloomberg reported that Singtel also plans to expand the platform to its associates in the Philippines, India and Indonesia in the second half of the year.

These include major companies, such as Airtel, Globe and Telkomsel, although regulatory clearance will have to be obtained in the various countries before the digital initiative takes off across Asia.

“Think of this as a Star Alliance of telco wallets,” Lang told Bloomberg, as he made reference to the global alliance of more than two dozen airlines. “We definitely welcome and are open to anyone who wants to come into our network,” he added.

Sourced from Singtel, Bloomberg; additional content by WARC staff