Mobile money is a recurrent theme for the watcher. See the mobile money overview post and Apple’s incorporation of NFC into iPhone post. As anticipated, all the industry players are jostling for position and there have been a number of recent announcements by UK mobile operators.
O2 announced in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that they had applied for an e-money licence which will enable them to provide payment services without needing to partner with a traditional bank. James Le Brocq, managing director of O2 UK‘s financial services division, commented to NFC world that they plan was to: “bring the contents of your wallet to your mobile phone and create your mobile wallet.” This will complement their existing Cash Manager and Load and Go cards which are provided in association with Natwest. O2 will not renew their partnership with Natwest when it expires at the end of the year.
O2’s announcement follows the recent announcement by Everything Everywhere and Barclaycard that they would be launching a contactless mobile payment service in the UK by summer 2011. Their customer proposition is deceptively simple. Orange customers with phones appropriately equipped with NFC capability (which at the moment looks like only the Nexus S, but choice will rapidly increase) will be able to touch their phones against contactless payment terminals to pay. Payment will be SIM-based, with payment capability provided by Barclaycard.
Although no integrated product or services have yet been announced by either O2 or Everything Everywhere, the interesting developments to watch will be the integration of mobile payment with location-based services.
The other mobile operators currently appear to be behind the curve in the UK with Vodafone focusing more on their international mobile money transfer product (M-PESA) aimed at unbanked customers in developing markets such as Kenya, Afghanistan and Tanzania, with plans to introduce them to South Africa, Qatar and Fiji, and no plans yet announced by struggling Three.