Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao confidently predicted UK consumers will embrace payment services based on near field communications (NFC) technology in mobile phones this year, although it is still not clear when services will become available on a wider basis.
Vodafone has joined with rival UK operators EE and O2 UK to launch Weve, a joint venture that aims to develop a single set of technical standards for use on all devices and networks and act as a "one-stop-shop" selling services to advertisers.
"I hope 2013 will be the year of launch," Colao told The Daily Telegraph, although he did not provide details on when services will be available.
Colao's remarks reflect the views of some analysts in a recent FierceWireless:Europe special report on NFC in Europe: many believe that progress has been made in the past two years, but say the momentum now needs to increase if the service has a chance of becoming a success. Analysts are cautiously optimistic that 2013 could be the year when this happens in Europe.
The slow progress of the service so far is also illustrated by the fact that Vodafone considered becoming a bank to speed things up. Colao told The Telegraph: "We looked into [becoming a bank] for the last 15 years--very seriously. I even got a banking licence in Italy."
However, the operator eventually gave up this idea because "at the end of the day, they require different skills," Colao added.
Colao also blamed European bureaucracy for the delay in service rollout. Indeed, it took the European Commission much longer than expected to finally give the green light to Weve, formerly known as Project Oscar. Regulatory delays are also believed to have caused operators to abandon a similar NFC venture in the Netherlands called "Sixpack."
UK operators rename mobile payments JV 'Weve,' hype tailored services
3 UK awaits invitation to join mobile payments JV
Report: EU poised to approve UK m-commerce venture
U.K. m-payments JV 'Project Oscar' reportedly delayed by EU probe
Analyst: UK consumers want banks to provide m-wallets