The world’s biggest – and arguably most
successful and profitable – bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of
China, has upgraded its m-banking platform following the successful
trial of a new Third Generation (3G) service.

The bank, which already boasts the world’s
largest online customer base with a stated 62 million users as of
the first quarter, says its new 3G platform is a first in the
country, allowing it to not only offer “basic services” like
account inquiries but functions such as payments and remittances,
credit card repayments and even the purchase of gold.

While ICBC adds that its standard Mobile
Banking service has “shown a strong development momentum since this
year”, and boasts 23.6 million users, it has yet to fully break the
huge Chinese mobile market. The bank says that there are 650
million mobile phone users in China, and, of them, 155 million surf
the internet with their cell phones.

It is predicted, ICBC says, that 300 million
Chinese citizens will access the internet via mobiles by the end of
2012. It added: “The rapid development of 3G technology is one of
the most important [media] in China’s internet economy.”

Despite vast branch networks (ICBC, for
example, has 15,676 branches and 35,741 ATMs), all of China’s banks
are investing in their electronic and self-service channels. At the
end of July, Bank of China (BoC) announced it had signed a
partnership deal with the China-based Alibaba Group aimed at
dominating the country’s e-commerce and payments market.

Alibaba vies with eBay’s PayPal as the world’s
largest e-commerce company, and boasts three leading brands:, described as the world’s leading B2B e-commerce
company;, China’s largest consumer e-commerce company;
and, China’s leading online payment service. Alipay
alone had a registered user base of over 200 million as of June

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In its first-quarter 2009 results, published
in April, ICBC said that its e-Banking transactions had risen to
CNY32 trillion in the first quarter, accounting for 44.5 percent of
all its businesses. The number of ICBC’s Personal Internet Banking
transactions reached 279 million with a volume of CNY3.21 trillion,
increases of 76.6 percent and 84.6 percent, respectively,