Visa International and SK Telecom have unveiled plans to launch what they expect will be the world's first contactless payment application on a universal SIM card that is personalized over-the-air.

Visa and SK Telecom plan to introduce this service in South Korea in April 2007, with an over-the-air (OTA) solution based on Visa’s recently announced mobile platform.

The two companies also agreed to develop new business models and to seek business opportunities overseas by spreading the OTA-based universal SIM (USIM) service. Overseas cooperation activities will include efforts to establish global standards for OTA personalization based on the platform being utilized in the Visa-SK Telecom program.

This collaboration is a significant step forward, especially in a mobile market as advanced as South Korea where consumers are already aware of mobile banking applications and are keen to see utility and services expanded, said Gordon Cooper, regional head of mobile payments for Visa Asia Pacific. Bringing together one of the world’s most innovative mobile operators with a leading global payment network opens up immense opportunities for the mobile payments business globally.

The combination of the OTA and USIM technologies is aimed at speeding up the growth of mobile payments in South Korea, where there are close to 40 million mobile subscribers and more than 83% penetration for mobile services.

Using SK Telecom 3G phones, the launch is planned to initially involve 30,000 SK Telecom subscribers. They will be able to install the Visa Wave contactless payment application directly onto their handsets via OTA without having to visit their bank. The user simply sends a message to the bank requesting the Visa payment application. The bank then sends the application through mobile internet into the secure USIM chip.

As the payment application resides on the subscribers’ USIM card, they will not be restricted to making payments only from that device. SK Telecom 3G subscribers who wish to change to a new handset need only move the USIM card to the new device.