Mobile banking services could be rolled out as early as next year, although experts believe that the timetable is ambitious.
The target has been set by the Mobey Forum, a standards body of technology vendors and financial services groups, which last week agreed its preferred software and hardware standards.
Including companies such as HSBC, UBS and The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Forum has been discussing technical and user specifications for mobile banking over the past three years.
The group has decided to back Java-based software from Meridea Financial Software, and Java phones with dual chip technology, as its chosen software and hardware standards.
Security, usability and interoperability were major considerations in the decision-making process, explained Ron Karpovich, associate director of e-ventures at The Royal Bank of Scotland, who sits on the Mobey board.
"When we started three years ago the technology was not there, but it is now," he said.
Karpovich added that the next few months will see pilots of the technology with "fully fledged mobile banking roll-outs in 2004".
He said that the technology should "quickly" pay for itself through savings on postage and improved marketing options.
"This service will not be a revenue generator but a requirement of banks," he added.
Esa Tihiliä, chief executive of Meridea Financial Software, said that banks will be charged on a per-user, per-year basis, and that the company had already started negotiations with "several banks".
Mobile banking has so far failed to capture the imagination. Analyst IDC has described growth in the market as "sluggish", estimating that only 4.6 per cent of the total population in western Europe will access financial services via mobile connections by the end of 2007.
Daniele Bonfanti, product manager of the European financial services sector at IDC, indicated that 2004 is an ambitious target for the Mobey Forum's expected widespread roll-out of mobile banking.
"The problem with this type of body is that it is often slow from deciding the technology to rolling it out," he said. "Mobile banking is interesting for the future but how much of the banks' budgets will go into it?"
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