Visa's introduction of a global mobile money program doesn't make it a pioneer in using handsets to tap underserved locales, but it does bring scale, open-loop flexibility and likely a lot of future bank issuers to a market that's  currently heavy on regional telecom partnerships with closed-loop systems.

"As Visa acknowledges, companies like M-Pesa have paved the way for lower cost mobile based payments initiatives. If they put the right energy against this initiative, Visa should be able to bring many banks into this new payments ecosystem," says Philip Philliou, a payments consultant.

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