Boku Signs Up Final U.S. Wireless Operator for Carrier Billing

It has taken three-and-a-half years, but Boku has finally signed up all four major U.S. carriers for its mobile payments service.

Today, the San Francisco company says that Sprint is coming on board to join the three other major U.S. carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile.

While the partnership provides additional momentum for Boku, the company still has a way to go before consumers are charging all sorts of purchases to their carrier bills. Today, the majority of Boku-paid purchases are for digital goods, such as in-game currency like Facebook Credits, or virtual goods in social games from companies like Zynga.

In an interview, Boku president Ron Hirson explained that it will still be another year or so before it starts seeing physical goods like clothing or electronics being charged to a carrier bill. For that to happen, carriers will have to drop the rates even lower than what they are charging today in order to be on par with Visa or MasterCard.

Over the past two years, Hirson said, prices already have dropped from roughly 40 percent to somewhere in the “teens.”

“We are proving ourselves out, and showing to the carrier that with each incremental drop, we are growing the pie,” he said.

The next likely product category to adopt carrier billing, he said, is digital content, including music, books, or physical tickets for public transportation or concerts. Those items have a big enough profit margin to make paying slightly higher transaction fees affordable.

Other companies in the carrier billing space include Mopay, BilltoMobile and Zong, which eBay’s PayPal acquired last year. Boku strengthened its position earlier this year when it raised $35 million in fresh capital.

While carrier billing has been slow to take off, Hirson said the company believes it will be a huge opportunity because of the convenience factor. To purchase something, users enter their phone number, and then authenticate that payment via text message.

Boku said today that it also signed up a carrier-billing partnership with Deutsche Telekom in Germany, meaning that it is now processing transactions with every major carrier in France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.

The company also announced that it has added two executives to its team: Jon Prideaux, the former EVP at Visa, is joining as chief business officer; and Stuart Neal, the former managing director of international development for Barclaycard, is joining as SVP of Business Development.

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