Vodafone has begun trials of a global payment system over mobile devices in the UK, Germany and Italy, the firm announced last week.

According to Vodafone, the main benefit for users paying for goods with their mobile phones would be security and convenience when buying online.

Payments for items bought over the service will be made through credit cards, debit cards or electronic direct debit for larger purchases, said Jon Earl, senior investor relations manager for Vodafone.

Vodafone is working with a third-party software company to develop the mobile payment system, but Earl declined to name the company. He also declined to say how long the trial is scheduled to run for or how many people are to be involved. The service will be launched commercially to Vodafone's 50 million customers in the UK, Germany and Italy "sometime later this year", he said.

Those taking part in the trials will be able to purchase digital goods over the internet, such as ring tones, while in Germany Vodafone has partnered with a ticketing agency to allow trial users there to buy tickets for events and public transportation, Earl said.

The trial was initially announced last month, though at the time Vodafone indicated it would only take place in the UK.

Though Vodafone customers will initially be able to pay only for digital content and "virtual products" such as ring tones via their prepay accounts or their monthly bill, eventually the program will be extended to allow users to make purchases in shops for such things as soft drinks or clothes, Earl said.