Singtel’s cross-border payments system expands to Japan

The Via cross-border payments system has expanded into Japan thanks to a partnership with Netstars.

Singapore's largest telecommunications carrier Singtel has expanded its Via cross-border payments alliance to Japan.

Via, the first cross-border mobile payment alliance in Asia in partnership with AIS, Thai digital bank Kasikornbank, and Boost Malaysia, is now also partnering with Tokyo-based mobile payment technology company Netstars and its 100,000 stores across Japan.

The alliance allows customers of those companies to "pay instantly in their local currency, transact conveniently and securely, and enjoy competitive foreign exchange rates in Japan, and across the networks of all wallet members in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia".

Singtel said it expects the Via alliance to continue expanding.

"Having welcomed Axiata Digital's Boost Malaysia mobile wallet just weeks ago, Via's steady expansion has taken it beyond our associate markets, and now beyond telco e-wallets and Southeast Asia," Singtel International Group CEO Arthur Lang said.

According to Netstars, it is aiming to have 1 million stores in Japan by the end of 2020, with CEO Tsuyoshi Ri saying the partnership with Via moves it "towards a cashless society in Japan".

Singtel had announced Via, the first cross-border mobile payment alliance in Asia, in October 2018.

Via combines Singtel Dash with AIS Global Pay and Rabbit Line Pay, enabling QR code-based mobile payments across Singapore and Thailand. The service will later be expanded to the telco's regional companies Airtel in India, Globe in the Philippines, and Telkomsel in Indonesia.

Singtel said it would also expand to include non-telco partners such as China's Ping An eWallet, which is owned by Ping An Insurance Group.

"The Via alliance is aimed at unifying Asia's fragmented payments scene by connecting different mobile wallet systems across the region," Lang said last year.

"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."

Also experimenting with cross-border payments systems in Asia is SWIFT, which in August announced that it would commence testing alongside banks from Australia, Singapore, Thailand, and China.

Participating in the trial are the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ bank, the National Australia Bank (NAB), Kasikornbank, Bangkok Bank, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, DBS, ICBC, Siam Commercial Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and United Overseas Bank.

The trial used the New Payments Platform (NPP), which uses an email address or phone number to transfer money from one person to another in near real-time, rather than relying on BSBs or account numbers.

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