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Facebook teams up with Bango for mobile payments

The move points towards a new step by Facebook to profit from its mobile customers

UK-based mobile billing and analytics company Bango has signed an agreement to provide payment services to the world's biggest social network, Facebook. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Bango's technology targets the growing market of internet-enabled smartphone users, who are increasingly using their devices to carry out transactions online. The company's white-label products collect payment from mobile users for online content and services, as well as providing analytics for mobile marketing campaigns.

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion already uses Bango to enable customers to pay for apps through their operator contracts, saving them the trouble of typing in their credit card details each time they buy an app. Bango also struck a deal with Amazon in December, although details of that agreement have not been revealed.

Other customers include EA Mobile, which uses Bango for targeted billing, Gameloft, for search marketing and mobile advertising, and O2 owner Telefnica UK, for real-time analysis.

It is thought that the Facebook deal could indicate a new push by the social network into mobile commerce - a market that is expected to be worth $37 billion (£23bn) by 2016, according to recent research published by Informa Telecoms & Media.

Meanwhile, social commerce is estimated to reach $50 billion (£31bn) by 2020,according to the Jack Myers Media Business Report, with sites such as Facebook expected to drive this growth.

Payment processing platform builder Ecwid, which offers a shopping cart widget that can be incorporated into a company's Facebook page, told Techworld that it saw a ten-fold increase in the number of customers placing Ecwid orders using Facebook in 2011.

Bango and Facebook have both remained tight-lipped on the details of the deal, with Bango's board claiming that it is "too early in the relationship to accurately forecast the level of business which it may generate."

However, Financial Times digital media correspondent Tim Bradshaw asserts that the deal could be critical in driving Facebook's Credits business in emerging markets. Credits is a payment system that enables users to buy virtual tokens that can be exchanged for digital goods in games and apps across Facebook.

Bango's anaytics capabilities could also help Facebook track how mobile content is used and consumed, in order to deliver targeted advertising. Facebook does not currently deliver advertisements on mobile platforms, but its IPO filing earlier this month revealed that the company will have to start monetising 425 million active mobile users, or the company's ad revenue will drop.

"Growth in the use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results," the company noted among its risk factors.

Rumours circulating this week suggest that Facebook is planning to start inserting "sponsored stories" into mobile users' feeds from next month. The company describes these as "posts from your friends or Pages on Facebook that a business, organisation or individual has paid to highlight so there's a better chance you'll see them".

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