From the start, mPowa CEO Dan Wagner has talked about partnerships being the key to getting his company’s chip-and-PIN mobile card reader into the hands of merchants – and eventually becoming a formidable foe to the likes of Square Inc. in the U.S.
MPowa, a unit of UK-based Powa Technologies Inc., took its largest step toward that end this week in landing a white-label partnership with Portugal Telecom to resell the card reader as part of the telco’s mobile payment system.
Wagner wouldn’t disclose the financial terms of the seven-year deal, but calls the agreement “certainly our biggest to date.”
Portugal Telecom has 100 million customers across Europe, Latin America and Africa, Wagner says.
“Put that into the context of our competition, and it represents a pretty big starting point and puts us on the map very quickly,” Wagner adds.
“India is not established yet, but it is another big market,” Wagner says. “We are in discussions with potential U.S. partners, but the U.S. is not hard-pressed for a chip-and-PIN mobile solution or even EMV yet, so it will be a little bit slower to close,” he adds.
Because the first EMV card-mandated preparation deadline unfolds in April in the U.S., and liability shifts take place in October 2015, Wagner says he hopes to have a partnership in place in the U.S. by the end of this year.
Europe has a far more “pressing need” for a chip-and-PIN mobile device, which accounts for mPowa’s strength in the UK and, now, other parts of Europe, Wagner says.
The mPowa card reader enables merchants to accept credit and debit card payments using their smartphones and Bluetooth technology. The reader accepts mag-stripe and chip-and-PIN cards.
Portugal Telecom will add mPowa’s mobile reader for merchants or sales assistants to move around a retail store to complete transactions, Wagner says. Consumers can also browse and scan products to pick up at collection points.
In the U.S., Square has worked with AT&T and, most recently, Verizon Wireless to resell its mobile card readers.