The US mobile payments market will receive a major boost this year after Isis, the mobile commerce joint venture set up by Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile US, announced plans for a nationwide rollout of its tap-and-pay mobile wallet.
The move could jumpstart the market for mobile payments in the US which has lagged
behind similar initiatives in Europe and elsewhere – reports the FT.
Isis plans to launch the Isis Mobile Wallet this year following successful trials in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah. The rollout will enable smartphone users whose handsets incorporate near field communications technology to pay for goods and services and redeem discount coupons at checkouts with a tap of their smartphone.
“Over the past nine months, we have proven the power of an open platform, creating an ecosystem of literally hundreds of partners dedicated to making mobile commerce a reality,” said Michael Abbott, Isis chief executive.
The rollout poses a challenge for Google and Sprint Nextel, the other major US mobile network operator, which launched an initiative called Google Wallet two years ago.
Uptake of near field communications in the US has been delayed partly by the lack of NFC-enabled handsets and payment terminals; rivalries between mobile operators, card issuers and payment networks; and security concerns.
However, mobile payments experts believe most of these issues have been resolved. In particular, although Apple’s iPhones do not support the technology, the number of NFC-enabled smartphones in the US has risen to nearly 20m.
Currently 35 mobile devices including Samsung’s Galaxy S4 handset, sold by Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile US, support the Isis standard. “Support for iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 is expected to be introduced later this year,” said Isis.
In addition, 25 of the top 100 national retailers have deployed or are deploying contactless NFC terminals. Aite Group, a mobile research firm, forecasts that 1.3m locations in the US will have contactless-ready payment terminals by the end of the year.
The trials in Austin and Salt Lake City found that two-thirds of active users opted to receive offers and messages from their favourite brands, while the use of the system nearly quadrupled to more than 4,000 locations in the two cities.
More than 80 per cent of transactions take place at locations such as quick-service restaurants, coffee shops, filling stations, and convenience and grocery stores, the trials found.
Consumer brands have been impressed with the results of the trials and the potential of NFC technology to boost customer loyalty programmes.
“Working in partnership with Isis, we have been witness to the power of mobile payments and loyalty,” said Rick Kanemasu of Coca-Cola. “More than one-third of active Isis Mobile Wallets users in Austin have loaded a My Coke Rewards card since our pilot began.”
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