MasterCard has signed on as the first card network to participate in the mobile payments component of the Weve joint venture in the U.K.

Weve, a venture of Vodafone U.K., Everything Everywhere and Telefonica O2 U.K., is developing a full mobile commerce system on top of the country's current payments infrastructure, and the MasterCard partnership falls in line with that mission, Weve CEO David Sear says in a Feb. 6 blog post announcing the partnership.

MasterCard's involvement will allow U.K. banks to "take part in the country's largest mobile payments initiative, without having to build something from scratch all over again," Sear says.

Weve was previously called Project Oscar. The venture changed its name in October of 2012 when it adopted plans to become a broader mobile commerce project.

MasterCard's MasterPass digital wallet and PayPass contactless technology will come into play as part of Weve's system, says Sean O'Connell, director of product at Weve.

"We are aiming for the first quarter of 2015 [for rollout], but development of the system which allows a common mobile contactless service has already begun," O'Connell says in an interview. Some of the mobile network operators will go live with their mobile wallets before Weve's full launch, but those wallets will tie into and work off the Weve service, he adds.

MasterCard has the "first mover advantage" in partnering with Weve, but the joint venture has the "ambition to deliver an open platform that can scale and provides issuers the environment to innovate and mobilize their products," O'Connell says.

As such, Visa Europe and other networks and payment providers should also be part of Weve in the future, O'Connell says.

Weve has established a solid merchant base through the first phase of the project, which focuses on digital marketing. Weve says it is already working with more than 175 brands and every major supermarket in the U.K.

The mobile marketing portion of the business has been growing and expanding over the past year and remains a strong part of the company’s focus, O'Connell says.

Being the first on board "seems like a significant win for MasterCard," says Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent.

"But the devil will be in the details" regarding what type of technology MasterCard will provide to the banks that participate in Weve, Bareisis says.

"It is not surprising to see Weve pushing into payments," Bareisis adds. "They always had that ambition, and after hiring David Sears, a seasoned payments executive, as a CEO, it was always only a matter of time before we would hear more about it."

But Weve has much work ahead of it, Bareisis says. "For example, how will the business-model issues be solved in terms of the commercial terms between banks and Weve acting on behalf of the mobile network operators?" he asks.

Sear continues to push Weve as the most practical means for U.K consumers to adopt mobile payments.

"Weve’s doing something different, something designed to unify the mobile payments landscape rather than fragment it further," Sear states in his blog post. "Paradoxically, we’re doing it by specifically not trying to reinvent payments processes or change consumer behavior."

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