Canada's suretap mobile wallet provides service to most of the country's mobile carriers, but its coverage map omits Apple handsets and most Canadian banks.

Originally a Rogers Communications-led initiative, the suretap mobile wallet's supporters now include Bell Canada and Telus Mobile—Canada's other major carriers—as well as some smaller subsidiary brands.

"It's reasonable to say that about 90 to 95% of the [mobile carrier customers] are covered," said Jeppe Dorff, president of suretap. But the company considers this only a foundation.

"It's been a long journey and now it's time to supersize this," he said.

The wallet app allows consumers to store card details on a SIM card in some Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled mobile phones, and has been around for a couple of years. Rogers was the first telco in Canada to receive regulatory approval for a mobile wallet, leading to the development of suretap. Early partners included MasterCard and CIBC.

"As it stands now, customers of one of these operators can download the app and engage with around 38 different credit cards," Dorff said. The initiative has gradually added merchants as well.

The telcos will offer the suretap app for their wireless customers on Android, BlackBerry and Microsoft smartphones. Consumers can add virtual and encrypted credit cards, and the venture plans to soon add debit, gift, loyalty, digital coupons and deals. Consumers will also be able to track transaction history and spending. Recently added retailers include SIR Corp—which carries Jack Astor's, Scaddabush, Far Niente and others—Cara Operations, Indigo, Cineplex, Forever 21 and Groupon.

Suretap can also benefit from a rapidly maturing mobile market in Canada, Dorff said. More than a third of all retailers have contactless payment terminals, compared to 2% in the U.S., suretap said, citing data from J.D. Power & Associates. And smartphone penetration in Canada is 73%, according to J.D. Power & Associates. 

Suretap also hopes to quickly add consumers, since awareness of mobile and NFC payments is higher in Canada than in the U.S., Dorff said, noting the country has scored well on "mobile readiness" studies conducted by MasterCard.

"Contactless is on a saturation path in Canada, it's a very mature market," Dorff said. "Four years ago, people were already tapping to pay in Canada."

What's missing for suretap is the rest of the country's large banks, many of which already work with InComm, which provided the technology that powers suretap. Suretap is also not available on iOS devices.

These gaps pose a challenge, since Suretap is trying to "get out ahead" of Apple Pay, which is expected to launch in Canada soon; and Android Pay, said Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director of mobile for Javelin Strategy & Research.

"The wallet still needs to work on getting issuing banks on board, because for now many customers will have to sign up for new credit cards or add merchant gift cards," Monahan said. "Suretap is still not offered on Apple iPhones. It still doesn't offer debit cards."

Based on spending, CIBC's market share in Canada is about 20%, said Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst with Celent's banking practice, who adds 38% of the country's 73% smartphone saturation are Apple users (or 27% overall).

"So while [suretap] has a fantastic start, they have a relatively small base," Lodge said. "And it requires a customer to care enough, and be able to swap SIM cards and everything that entails."

Support for Apple devices is not imminent, though suretap said it has had talks with Apple. Suretap is confident other Canadian banks will soon come on board.

"There are a couple of banks that we are working with that will come in later this year," Dorff said. 

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