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MasterCard unveiled its new digital wallet network at the start of the CTIA wireless industry trade show in New Orleans, which began on Tuesday.

Called PayPass, it's a unified network, enabling merchants to accept digital payments electronically both in-store and online. Consumers will be able to use a smartphone, computer or tablet to pay for goods and services.

The service will first be introduced in the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, followed by other countries.

Consumers are increasingly using devices - such as smartphones - that make payments using NFC (Near Field Communications) and other contactless technologies. So we can expect a lot of growth in electronic payments, and the new digital wallet network is designed to help banks and retailers take advantage of the opportunities.

MasterCard is also offering services that will help banks, retailers and technology companies to build digital wallets, at the same time as letting companies 'plug' their own wallets into the PayPass network.

Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T's mobile unit, told the Financial Times: "Mobile payments is a very promising area for us. I don't think it will be long before electronic wallets replace physical wallets."

He added: "We have to make sure that mobile wallets are both simple to use and secure."

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