Telefónica joins with banks in landmark mobile payments venture

Telefónica is teaming up with Spanish banks CaixaBank and Santander to create a joint venture to develop new digital businesses in mobile banking, with a focus on the creation of a mobile wallet and person-to-person mobile payments.

Billed as the first joint venture between banks and telecoms operators in Europe to develop new digital services, the deal sets a new precedent in a field long dogged by difficulties ranging from the establishment of an effective ecosystem through to regulatory hurdles.

The mobile payments market is certainly already littered with partnerships between operators and financial services providers, such as Deutsche Telekom's partnership with MasterCard, as well as operator mobile payments ventures including Weve in the UK, but banks and operators actually working together within one company could have a much better stab at driving mobile payments into the mainstream. In Serbia, Telenor took a different approach still by actually acquiring a banking licence itself.

As a first step, Telefónica said the venture will create an online community "to ease the connection between merchants and consumers when it comes to offers, discounts and promotions." This will be followed by the development of a digital wallet, which will also enable person-to-person mobile payments between consumers.

Telefónica also made it clear that although the new company plans to start its activities in Spain, where it will target 600,000 businesses, it will quickly offer its services on the international stage. Here it will benefit from the huge global presence of its respective parent companies.

"There is a profound change happening in the way we buy things," Telefónica CEO José María Álvarez-Pallete said in a statement. "Digital technologies are transforming how consumers research products and then identify the best prices, promotions or discounts. This joint venture combines the partners' technical and financial services expertise to create an ecosystem for the benefit of both retailers and consumers."

The venture is subject to approval by competition authorities, although no timeline was given on how long the approval process is expected to take place.

In January mobile payments service provider Bango will develop a direct-to-bill mobile payment platform with Telefónica. The global framework deal combined Bango's platform with Telefónica's BlueVia payment APIs, following successful trials of direct-to-bill in the Spanish operator's businesses.

For more:
- see this release
- see this GigaOM article

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