A consortium of Dutch banks and mobile operators that planned to deploy an NFC-based mobile payment service in the Netherlands in 2012 pushed the launch of the joint venture back to 2013 because of the need to get regulatory approval from the European Commission (EC). Meanwhile, T-Mobile Netherlands has decided to withdraw from the joint venture, known as Sixpack, claiming that the lack of any NFC payment infrastructure in Holland has forced it to re-evaluate its inclusion in the venture.
The consortium, which now includes the original members Vodafone, KPN, Rabobank, ABN Amro and ING, designed the venture to support heavyweight investments in NFC infrastructure with the idea to recoup this investment via transaction fees. However, T-Mobile told NFC Times that it was unsure that revenue from the scheme would cover the required investment. The operator said that it will decide on how to provide mobile payments in the Netherlands at a later stage.
Commenting on the delay, a member of the Sixpack programme office, C.M.W. Onderwater, told NFC Times that commercial considerations were not involved with the decision to launch the NFC payment services in early 2013, rather than in 2012. The lack of NFC phone availability, the state of the point-of-sale infrastructure in Holland or other NFC ecosystem issues were also discounted as potential bottlenecks. The real issue, according to Onderwater, was EU regulations.
"It's a very complex subject, competition law; and it's a new market," Onderwater said. "There's not very much experience in this-nobody had a clear understanding or expectation of the time lines, also not the authorities themselves."
This delay by the Dutch venture to launch on schedule will cause other m-commerce joint ventures across the region to watch closely how the EC reacts. NFC joint ventures are already underway--at a planning stag--in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, the UK and, most recently, Sweden.
However, the Sixpack venture differs from most others due to the involvement of the country's major banks. What might worry the EC is that the Dutch partners represented around 90 per cent of both the banking and telecom markets.
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