LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE MONEY SUMMIT 2011: Telefonica has vowed to learn the lessons from the early mobile money schemes in Asia and Africa as it begins its rollout of mobile financial services across Latin America.

Speaking at the GSMA’s Mobile Money Summit this morning, the operator’s director of new businesses, Pablo Montesano, outlined how the firm was working with MasterCard to target services at 87 million customers across 12 Latin American markets where it is present. Telefonica and MasterCard created a 50/50 joint venture earlier this year to target both banked and unbanked customers across the region.

“We have learnt some ‘do’s and don’ts’ from the early experiences [in Asia and Africa], which have saved us maybe three or four years of making mistakes,” said Montesano. “Mobile money is not just a new service, it’s a new business. You need the right skills and resources, and we didn’t have the right resources to begin with.”

But he noted that “Latin America isn’t Africa,” and that the region has some unique opportunities and challenges. “Argentina has a GDP that is ten times that of Kenya, and a more developed banking sector. Plus, not many of us have the 80 percent market share that [MPESA operator] Safaricom has in Kenya. We need scale, so we need to connect with other operators.” On the downside, Montesano warned of the heightened security risks across many Latin America markets, which will create problems for some mobile money services.

Telefonica has previously said that its partnership with MasterCard will enable customers to use mobile devices for services such as person-to-person money transfers, bill payments, mobile airtime reload and retail purchases. It is estimated that the value of mobile financial transactions will reach approximately US$63 billion in Latin America by 2014.