BlackBerry Launches BBM Money Pilot In Indonesia

BlackBerry may be launching a new platform in certain markets to try to win back users, but it’s focusing on service additions in other places where the BlackBerry install base remains strong. Today it’s officially launching BBM Money in Indonesia, in partnership with PermataBank and Monitise to bring real-time mobile payments to BlackBerry’s platform-specific social network and messaging service.

The service (tipped late last year) allows BlackBerry users to create a mobile money account attached to their BBM identity, and use that to transfer money to other BBM contacts, as well as purchase airtime credit for their device, or move money to bank accounts. The mobile payments play will mean that million of Indonesian BBM customers will be able to quickly conduct business transactions right in the service where many of them already communicate on business matters, and allow merchants and others to quickly accept payments with the devices they already own without requiring the involvement of any third-party device or software.

Market saturation of phones overall in Indonesia is high, and BlackBerry is the number one selling smartphone in the country, which makes it a logical place to launch a mobile money service that requires both parties to have BlackBerries to work. Monitise Group Strategy Director Richard Johnson went into more detail about just why the Indonesian market was such a perfect fit for this launch.

“BlackBerry Messenger is the dominant short message communication platform in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world with 240 million people,” he said in an interview. “There is also the country’s 90 percent mobile penetration and the fact that BlackBerry is the number one selling mobile smartphone there – more than half of all smartphones sold in Indonesia are BlackBerry devices. At a global level, what is really exciting here with real-time chat evolving through real-time engagement, is that you are effectively taking a social network and turning it into a payment network.”

Users aren’t charged for sending money between BBM contacts, or topping up their airtime minutes on a prepaid SIM using the service. They do incur normal banking and mobile rates, however, depending on their specific bank’s policies regarding fund transfers, and on their mobile plan. It work with any device running BlackBerry OS 5 or higher, with BBM 6 or higher, though it isn’t available on BB10 (which is of little consequence, since it has yet to launch in Indonesia anyway).

BBM Money does two key things for BlackBerry: It helps entrench the service in markets where BlackBerry is still the smartphone platform of choice, and it offers yet another opportunity for service differentiation to continue to help evolve BBM into something more than similar offerings from Apple (iMessage) and third parties (Kik, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger). Should the pilot go well, I’d expect to see further launches in other markets where BlackBerry needs to dig in to help keep its lead, like Nigeria and South Africa.