China’s Alipay Reboots Digital Wallet, Heads to Taiwan (Oct. 17, 2013)
China’s giant retail payments operator Alibaba Group this week announced plans to expand its Alipay online payment service to Taiwan and simultaneously unveiled key upgrades to Alipay’s digital wallet, significantly increasing customers’ options for online and offline purchases. Alibaba, which claims about 50 percent market share of China’s online payments, expects to offer Alipay in Taiwan during the first half of 2014, though the company is still working through local regulatory requirements for third-party payment providers, according to Alibaba’s blog. The moves signal Alibaba’s plans to expand its reach throughout Asia, following news that Alipay in September inked a deal with Singapore Airlines enabling Chinese travelers to use Alipay to purchase tickets on the airline’s Website.
The improved Alipay Wallet 7.6, set to roll out next month, will leverage soundwave technology that uses white noise generated by smartphones to transmit payment information from handsets to payment terminals where no telecom or Wi-Fi signal is present, according to reports. The technology will enable consumers to use Alipay Wallet with smartphones to make payments within certain zones, such as subway station vending machines, malls and schools. Another new Alipay Wallet feature, called Official Accounts, lets consumers connect directly with merchant accounts through the app to redeem coupons, check the status or make changes in loyalty or data plans.
Alibaba reportedly plans to file a $15 billion IPO next year, which would boost the company’s value to at least $100 billion. Alibaba in April inked a memorandum of understanding with MasterCard to work together on e-commerce. Alibaba’s chief rival in Asia is Tencent-owned WeChat, another online payment portal, which claims 100 million registered user accounts outside China.