Weve, the mobile payments joint venture of the UK's three largest mobile operators, Vodafone UK, EE and O2 UK, is partnering with MasterCard to accelerate the development of what the companies describe as the UK's "most comprehensive contactless mobile payments system".
The overarching goal of the partnership is to provide a contactless payment system via smartphones that is easy for consumers to use, and easier and cheaper for banks to manage: MasterCard's role is to provide the technology and integration services to banks and financial institutions that want to take advantage of Weve's payments platform.
According to David Sear, CEO of Weve, contactless payments in the UK using cards are taking off, with over 36 million people in the country armed with a compatible card, and 300,000 retailers throughout the country enabled for secure payments.
"So why are mobile payments a bit of a mess?" Sear asked. "That may sound harsh, but it's inescapably true; to date, the industry has created a level of discussion and confusion driven by a multitude of announcements that actually haven't delivered mobile payments systems that works the way that consumers want and need them to."
According to Sear, unless the mobile payments industry recognises that it has to partner fully with banks and retailers, "we'll be waiting for another 10 years for adoption of mobile payments at scale".
Indeed, Sear pointed to the "corpses of failed payments projects" that litter the mobile payments landscape. Even within the UK, different operators have launched their own separate schemes: Vodafone is working with Visa on the SmartPass mobile wallet application, EE offers the Cash on Tap service, and Orange and Barclaycard launched the UK's first NFC-based payment service with Quick Tap. In France, Orange France is teaming up with Visa Europe to launch a prepaid NFC service called Orange Cash in 2014, and also operates the Cityzi service with Bouygues Telecom and SFR.
Weve's approach is to build a payments system that takes existing industry contactless standards and builds mobile around them, rather than implementing new technologies and protocols that require everyone in the chain to learn something new.
"None of this works, though, unless the banks have an easy way to get on board too," said Sear. "That's why today, we're announcing a new partnership with MasterCard that will provide exactly that: a way for the UK's banks to take part in the UK's largest mobile payments initiative, without having to build something from scratch all over again."
Sear added that more details on Weve's progress will be announced over the next few months.
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