O2 UK boosts financial services unit ahead of 2012 London Olympics

New staff members are being recruited into the O2 Money unit to ensure that the company is ready to deploy and market mobile contactless payment services in the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics.

The head of NFC at O2, Claire Maslen, confirmed that the company was already in talks with financial services and retail brands to support the rollout of contactless NFC technology. "We've long said that the technology and consumer demand are in place for NFC services to launch, but that the ecosystem isn't ready for such services to go mass market."

While O2 UK has been actively testing NFC for some years, this decision to recruit 14 new staff indicates that its plans are now more serious. The deployment and marketing of contactless payments have been dogged by concerns over security and the investment required by retailers to purchase and install the NFC readers. 

Reacting to the news, Ben Wood, director of research at mobile analysis firm CCS Insight, said, "NFC technology has been around for a long time and O2 has been the most proactive in taking it to market."

However, Wood suggested that this sudden upsurge in interest could have been prompted by Google's latest initiative to integrate NFC technology into its new handset--and cut operators involvement. "With companies like Google throwing their weight behind NFC, operators realise they'll have to be quick to market."

Regardless of which firm makes the play, Wood added, "With the 2012 Olympics billed as the 'Contactless Games', I think the UK will be one of the most exciting markets for NFC next year."

The O2 Money unit, which launched two wireless prepaid credit cards (Cash Manager and Load & Go) in partnership with the RBS banking group in 2009, has since had the financially-troubled RBS quit the arrangement stating that it wanted to concentrate on its core banking activities.

For more:
- see this New Media Age article

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