UK mobile operators form NFC joint venture

Everything Everywhere, which runs the Orange and T-Mobile networks in the UK, Vodafone and Telefónica O2 have agreed to establish a joint venture company that “will deliver the technology required for the speedy adoption of mobile wallet and payments.”

Orange, O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile
JOINT VENTURE: UK mobile network operators stake out NFC wallet claim

The UK’s four leading mobile networks have announced plans to create a joint venture company that “will deliver the technology required for the speedy adoption of mobile wallet and payments.”

The new company is being set up by Telefónica UK, Vodafone UK and Everything Everywhere, the recently created merger between the UK arms of mobile network operators Orange and T-Mobile, and aims to launch before the end of 2011, subject to clearance from the competition authorities.

“This will enable consumers to transfer their entire physical wallet into a new secure, SIM-based wallet regardless of which NFC enabled mobile device, or mobile network they are using,” say the partners. “Companies and organisations that provide anything from credit, debit and loyalty cards to membership cards and transport tickets will be able to create secure mobile versions of their products. Consumers will be able to use their mobiles to pay for goods, services and travel using contactless technology (NFC) with one touch of their phone, or online via mobile or PC.”

The new business will provide a single contact point for advertisers, media agencies and retailers looking to reach consumers on their mobile phones. The joint venture company (JV) “will enable them to book advertising space and create campaigns as well as provide offers, coupons and loyalty cards which can be stored on the phone and redeemed in shops. For consumers, the JV means that they will be able to receive discounts and offers from brands that are relevant to them and that they want to receive.”

Everything Everywhere, Telefónica and Vodafone will also “continue to develop their own competing products and services tailored to their own customers, which will be based on the open platform infrastructure provided by the JV.”

“This groundbreaking new business will unlock the true potential of commerce in the wire-free world,” says Tom Alexander, CEO of Everything Everywhere. “The benefits will be felt across the whole industry, allowing people to manage their money and make payments using their handsets, helping advertisers reach their customers on the move, and helping banks provide their clients with an easy and convenient way of making payments.

“And for partners operating in these industries, having a one-stop shop to deal with will make things quicker, easier and more efficient,” he added. “This joint venture will further reinforce mobile as the essential 21st century device at the heart of people’s daily lives.”

Ronan Dunne, chief executive at Telefónica UK, said: “We are seeing an explosion in the m-commerce market. Mobile advertising spend alone has more than doubled in two years as consumers embrace marketing on their handsets because it is now relevant to them and provides a great customer experience.”

“The mobile marketing and payments market is extremely fragmented. By creating this new business we will underpin this nascent market, providing real size and scale, allowing consumers to benefit from new and innovative services like the mobile wallet, and giving them more of the things they value, through offers and deals that are truly relevant to them. At the same time business customers will reach a vastly increased audience, utilising a single platform for sales, delivery and payment.

“This is not just something that is unique in the UK, but a JV that will create a model that many countries around the world could follow.”

Guy Laurence, CEO at Vodafone UK, added: “Since Vodafone made the first ever call just 26 years ago, mobile phones have transformed people’s lives. Along the way, the mobile phone has become the one item people really cannot be without. It is the first thing they reach for in the morning and the last thing they check at night. Over recent years it has integrated new gadgets such as digital cameras and music players as they have become popular. The new generation of smartphones is even taking on desktop PC by providing internet on the move and removing the need to be in the home or office.

“Currently people take their mobile, wallet and keys when they leave home. In the near future, people will now start leaving their wallet at home, and in the mid term their keys may also be integrated into their mobile as NFC allows the mobile to act as a digital access card. The joint venture is the next phase in realising that ambition.”

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