Vodafone is gearing to deploy mobile payment services to its near 400 million subscribers globally, after striking a partnership with credit card firm Visa.
The deal is the largest of its kind between a mobile operator and payment firm, and will utilize Visa’s prepaid network to enable Vodafone customers in 30 countries to pay by mobile. While revealing the service will first launch in Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Turkey and Spain, Vodafone is sketchy on when other markets will be added.
What is clear is that Vodafone and Visa are playing for more than just consumers. The plan is to enable Visa issuers to handle mobile payments, in a bid to open the door to other industries including financial institutions, retailers, transport and utility companies. Each will be offered the chance to host their own service within a broader Vodafone mobile wallet brand, and Vodafone revealed it is already holding discussions with firms across several sectors.
“Our mobile wallet will be open to any service provider and we are committed to enable all partners to provide our joint customers the richest service portfolio possible,” Vodafone chief executive, Vittorio Colao, says, adding that the service is “the next stage of the smartphone revolution.”
NFC is the payment technology of choice for Europe, North America and Australia. While there is no mention of emerging markets, Vodafone has already enjoyed success with its SMS-based M-Pesa mobile money transfer service in Africa, suggesting it may initially rely on that to cover countries with less well-developed infrastructure.
Technology aside, Visa president John Partridge predicts the partnership “has the potential to transform the way people pay and get paid,” and will “assist financial institutions in both developed and developing countries.”