Two European telecommunication companies are awaiting a regulatory ruling on a joint venture they created to develop a mobile-payment “ecosystem” in Europe.

Meantime, Vodafone Group PLC and Telefonica UK Ltd., known as O2, also are keeping their own mobile wallets in the public’s eye. And that’s probably wise, given the European Commission is investigating their “Project Oscar” joint venture and Everything Everywhere Ltd. (T-Mobile parent Orange in UK) for potential antitrust violations (see story).

Indeed, there is no way to predict how the commission will rule, Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent, tells PaymentsSource.

Generally, mobile wallets offered by individual companies in Europe are comparable to Barclay’s Pingit service, which links payment cards to a mobile phone to support funds transfers and payments, Bareisis says (see story).

Vodafone links its plan with the prepaid card network of Visa Europe to enable customers in 30 countries to make payments through their mobile phones.

As such, the Vodafone wallet may have a limitation in operating only with Visa prepaid cards. But like other mobile wallets, it essentially seeks to load payment cards onto the mobile phone to support point-of-sale payments, Bareisis notes.

However, the “Project Oscar” joint venture seeks to provide startup funding for a Near Field Communication-based payment “ecosystem” banks and retailers may join and consumers and merchants may use to communicate, Bareisis says.

“These companies are prepared to stand it alone with their own mobile wallets until the commission determines what will become of Project Oscar because they want to get consumer recognition established,” he suggests.

With companies such as PayPal Inc. and Google Inc. making overtures about mobile and digital wallets, it is important for companies such as Vodafone and O2 to establish their own mobile wallets, Bareisis contends.

The Vodafone-Visa launch will occur this year in the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Spain, and the Netherlands, Vodafone announced in late February. That announcement triggered even more mobile-wallet competition in the UK (see story).

While Vodafone has not announced target dates for implementation in other countries, the telco says it wants to provide an NFC-based mobile-wallet service to all of its estimated 400 million subscribers globally in 30 countries.

Vodafone executives say other mobile networks may participate with the Vodafone-Visa mobile wallet.

Meanwhile, O2 is in the process of making its mobile wallet available to customers in the UK, touting it as the most comprehensive mobile-payment technology available because it supports funds transfers, price comparisons, and offers and promotions from merchants through mobile Web access.

The O2 mobile wallet links a consumer’s existing Visa or MasterCard Worldwide credit or debit cards, along with some prepaid options, O2 stated in a press release.

In addition, O2 announced that UK-based marketing software provider Cogenta Systems Ltd. will provide its “My Offers” software for merchant communication with the consumer and access to a price-comparison database as part of the mobile wallet.

O2 eventually plans to incorporate NFC into its mobile phone, the company stated.

Consumers may download the mobile wallet software off the O2 website for Apple Inc. iPhones, Google Inc. Android devices or Research in Motion Ltd. Blackberry devices.

When fully established, the Vodafone and O2 mobile wallets would co-exist with “Project Oscar,” which the companies hope will serve as an NFC-based mobile-payments clearinghouse.

Hutchison 3G UK Ltd., known as Three, a UK-based mobile-payments provider, triggered the European Commission investigation after reportedly choosing not to participate in the joint venture.

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