MasterCard and telco provider VimpelCom have formed a strategic partnership that will combine MasterCard mobile payments technology and solutions with globally integrated telecommunications services from VimpelCom. The partnership, which was announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, will provide payment solutions to 212 million VimpelCom customers in 18 countries.

"Mobile phones are at the center of peoples' social and commercial lives," said Mikhail Gerchuk, group chief commercial and strategy officer at VimpelCom. "Today, in many of the countries where VimpelCom operates, mobile penetration is much higher than ownership of a bank account. We are pleased to be partnering with MasterCard to deliver innovative and reliable financial services solutions over our mobile networks …This collaboration will also help us to strengthen our customers' experience by offering value add services including, but not limited to person to person payments, bill payments and mobile commerce."

A prepaid program for Wind Italy customers, to be launched in partnership with CartaLIS, will debut in 2013. Following the Italy launch, the program will be introduced in other key markets. Further country and market deployments will leverage the full range of both companies' complementary solution suites.

"The convergence of the physical and digital worlds is increasingly offering more payment and commercial options along with increased consumer choice and greater convenience," said Hany Fam, president of strategic alliances at MasterCard Europe. "By partnering with VimpelCom, one of the world's largest integrated telecommunications services operators, MasterCard is addressing mobile payments that will replace cash in the day-to-day life of millions of people and drive financial inclusion across the globe."

VimpelCom currently provides voice and data services through a range of traditional and broadband mobile and fixed technologies. The company operates under various brand names in Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Laos, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic and Canada.

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