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eBay announced today that it has purchased Zong, a company that lets you easily pay for purchases with your mobile phone number, for $240 million in cash.

The acquisition is clearly meant to make PayPal (which eBay owns) an even greater force in the world of mobile payments. Zong’s carrier billing capabilities — the company has relationships with over 250 carriers in 21 languages and 45 countries around the world — will open up even more ways for PayPal’s 100 million or so users to make purchases.

The news is yet another example of the excitement surrounding mobile payments at the moment. Mobile payments will be one of the key topics discussed at VentureBeat’s MobileBeat 2011 conference next week, which will feature such speakers as PayPal Mobile’s Laura Chambers, Zong CEO David Marcus, and Stephanie Tilenius, VP of payments at Google. Zong is also one of our event sponsors.

“I am so excited by the unique combination of PayPal’s 8 million merchants, brand power, risk management expertise, and financial stability, with Zong’s Carrier DNA, its largest direct carrier payments network, product innovation, and best-in-class carrier billing technology,” Marcus wrote in a blog post today. “This industry first is going to allow us to scale what we’ve built over the course of the past 3 years (and then some) in a massive way!”

PayPal said it expects to handle over $3 billion in mobile payments this year. Over 8 million customers are making purchases with PayPal on their phones, the company said, approaching up to $10 million in payments every day.

“Digital goods is a market that’s worth $20 billion today and is poised to grow dramatically,” PayPal CEO Scott Thompson wrote today. “In the future, I think that anything that CAN move digitally WILL move digitally. Music, movies, news, books, games … you name it. Last year, $3.4 billion in payments for digital goods went through our system.”

Front image via Ed Yourdon

We’ll be exploring the most disruptive mobile trends at our fourth annual MobileBeat 2011 conference, on July 12-13 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. It will focus on the rise of 4G and how it delivers the promise of true mobile computing. We’re also accepting entries for our mobile startup competition at the show. MobileBeat is co-located with our GamesBeat 2011 conference this year. To register, click on this link. Sponsors include Verizon Wireless, Qualcomm, Flurry, Greystripe, Box, Moolah Media, Tapjoy, AT&T Interactive, YuMe, Zong, Kontagent, Papaya Mobile, Acaltel-Lucent, Spil Games, BluePoint Security, PayPal, Xyologic, VSC, and Vantage Communications.


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