Vodafone is to launch its M-Pesa service in India in partnership with the country’s largest bank, Icici Bank. The two partners will initially launch the mobile money service in eastern parts of the country before the end of 2012. As well as the city of Kolkata, the M-Pesa service will be launched in the states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Vodafone is involved through its wholly owned subsidiary Mobile Commerce Solutions Limited (MCSL). The M-Pesa service will offer money transfer to any mobile phone or bank account in the country, as well as additional features including mobile recharge, utility bill payment and purchases at selected shops.

Cash can be paid into the service via a network of authorised agents.  Although not explicitly stated, previous deployments have leveraged existing networks of agents who already sell airtime on behalf of the cellular operator.

Subscribers will be offered a mobile money account from Icici Bank as well as a mobile wallet from MCSL.

Further rollout across India will be carried out on a phased approach say the partners without specifying which region will come next or over what timescale.

Vodafone launched a trial of M-Pesa in India a year ago so the current announcement of a commercial launch is not a surprise. Earlier this year the operator’s CEO Vittorio Colao said the aim was for a commercial service in India during the 2012/13 financial year.  Although most closely associated with Kenya, M-Pesa has also been launched by Vodafone in several other countries too.