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Cingular plans mobile banking service for 2007

NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Cingular Wireless, the No. 1 U.S. cellular operator, said on Wednesday it is talking with banks about letting its customers manage their money by cell phone as part of a push to expand phone use beyond talking.

The wireless venture of AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and BellSouth Corp. (BLS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) said a wireless banking application it is testing would let customers of participating banks view account balances, transfer funds and pay bills on their cell phones.

Spokesman Mark Siegel said Cingular hoped to launch the application commercially in early 2007. Cingular was talking to a lot of banks, but he did not name any potential partners or disclose whether the company had any firm commitments.

"We hope a lot of banks participate," he said. "The early signs are very encouraging."

Siegel said Cingular does not plan to charge a separate fee for the feature, which it hopes will encourage customers to sign up for data service subscriptions and potentially help Cingular win new subscribers and hold on to existing ones.

Customers would be able to use the banking feature by downloading an application that Cingular is currently testing from privately held Firethorn Holdings LLC.

The company and its rivals are constantly looking for new wireless data applications to boost growth amid falling phone call prices. Other data services being developed include music and video downloads for phones.

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