Belgian NFC payments joint venture hits the rocks

Plans to create a common mobile payments platform for Belgium’s banks and mobile network operators have been abandoned over an inability to agree on whose technology to use or a business case that could work for all parties.

Belgacom Base and Mobistar
PLANS ABANDONED: The partners have been unable to reach agreement

Plans unveiled a year ago to create a common platform for NFC services in Belgium have hit the rocks.

Last February, Belgacom, Mobistar (part of the Orange group) and Base (part of the Dutch KPN Group) announced they had joined forces with the country’s financial sector with the aim of introducing SMS and NFC based mobile payments for low value transactions by the end of 2011.

“This innovative and unique new instrument is the result of close collaboration between the financial sector and telecoms,” the operators explained at the time. “Both sectors are convinced that the development of a standard product is one of the key factors for a rapid and efficient mobile payment system in Belgium. This puts our country among the pioneers in this field in Europe.”

That “close collaboration” has now dissolved and it appears that the cause is primarily due to a disagreement over what technical platform the joint venture should use.

Belgian publication Data News broke the news of the standoff between the partners on Friday. The key issue, sources told the publication, was that Belgacom wanted to see the system being based on its established PingPing platform but Mobistar, in particular, was reluctant to sign up for a solution primarily based on technology developed by a competitor.

“It has always been difficult to bring together the Belgian operators,” one source told Data News. “If the Belgian players fail to agree and launch their own initiative, foreign companies will soon do it for them,” another added.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to find a ‘business case’ in which all parties could meet,” Mobistar spokesperson Patti Verdoodt told Data News.

Verdoodt has confirmed to NFC World that the current project has stalled but, she explained, there are still hopes that a solution will be found. The carrier is very much backing NFC and mobile payments, she added, and discussions are on going with the aim of finding a solution that both banks and mobile network operators can agree to.

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