Vodafone and German mobile operator T-Mobile, normally tough competitors, have 'joined forces' to develop a system by which customers can pay for purchases directly from their phones.

This is something that companies have been trying to make happen here in the UK for several years. Many things have held them back, including fundamental fears and technical problems with security and authentication.

T-Mobile and Vodafone announced the project today at the CeBit trade show, although Vodafone made another announcement about the service, branded m-pay, earlier in the week.

The system will allow people to send stored credit card or bank numbers from a 'virtual wallet' via their mobile phones in order to pay for goods and services 'at the touch of a button', said Vodafone spokesman Jon Earl.

Alternatively, they can choose to charge small transactions directly to their mobile-phone bill. This method has already proved extremely successful in more limited business models.

Vodafone's version of the platform is currently being tested in the UK and in Germany and is expected to be made commercially available in those countries toward the end of this year, Earl said. He added that Vodafone and T-Mobile are discussing possible cooperation with other mobile operators, but declined to name them.

"The whole point is that we're being open and saying, 'Let's work together and develop a common platform'," he said.