O2 UK unveils mobile wallet service, ponders charging model

O2 UK launched its mobile wallet service, which will allow consumers to transfer money to any UK mobile phone number using text messaging. The service, available as an application for Android, Apple's iOS and BlackBerry, can also be used for online shopping, tracking items purchased and making ATM cash withdrawals.

O2 Wallet

The operator said that users, which do not need to be O2 UK subscribers, can use the m-wallet app free for six months, after which the company might impose a 15 pence fee for each money transfer. Users can also opt to receive an O2 Wallet card that enables them to withdraw cash from an ATM at a cost of £1.

O2 Money Managing Director James le Brocq told Mobile Today that no decision had been made regarding charges. "It's a free service for at least the first six months. We are aware Barclays offers its Pingit service for free. It's an option to charge but the decision has not been made."

Regardless, Le Brocq said he is upbeat that the service, which O2 had first expected to launch by the end of last year. The operator delayed the launch to conduct more testing. He told Mobile Payments Today the service "delivers the benefits of mobile money to more UK consumers than any other product or service currently available. We believe it will transform the way people manage their finances and spend money."

O2 UK said the m-wallet service has undergone several months of tests from security experts to verify that it's secure. In additional to PINs and passwords, the operator says that all customer details and financial data are held in the cloud instead of relying on the handset to store the information.

Commenting on the m-wallet launch, Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Guillermo Escofet, said: "Currently, it looks more like it's trying to compete with the Pingit mobile money transfer service that UK bank Barclays launched in February. O2 Wallet is also an evolution of the O2 Money prepaid card launched in 2009 - which is now incorporated into the new service."

"Will O2 wallet be successful"?, asks Escofet. "It has a greater chance of success than mobile payment services solely focused on NFC. But O2 faces the same challenges that all other telcos face when competing against so-called OTT players--global online companies such as PayPal and Google that have greater geographic reach, brand appeal and agility."

For more:
- see this Mobile Today article
- see this Mobile Payments Today article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this Informa release
- see this O2 UK release

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