What a shame the big telecom companies are likely to miss out on the Olympic deadline for their cashless mobile payments joint venture.
Their plans have been thwarted by demands from the European Commission (EC), which is still seeking more submissions before giving the scheme dubbed ‘Project Oscar’ the go-ahead.
Three has raised concerns about competition after being precluded from the platform, and made it clear it’ll oppose anything that smacks of ‘private club’ when it comes to pricing.
Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere jointly announced the project last year and there have been suggestions that they were planning to launch the joint venture to coincide with the start of the London Olympics. Even if the telco consortium did receive the go-ahead, it would still be too late for the project to be fully implemented in time for the Games. Now everyone will have wait for a final ruling before any further progress is made.
Perhaps the networks should’ve taken a leaf out of the banking sector, where Barclays stole a march on its rivals and is set to revolutionise the industry with its new Pingit system. This will allow smartphones users to make payments using their mobile phone number. And now the other banks are scrambling to make up ground.
Within two days of the announcement, Barclays claimed its new system had attracted 20,000 customers and was threatening to become the banking sector’s benchmark when it comes to mobile payments. Its chief retail officer Antony Jenkins shrugged off any security concerns and said the Pingit system was set to lead the way.
However, mobile industry sources claim that mobile banking payment systems remain fragmented, but there is an opportunity for the telecom companies to co-operate and not necessarily be rivals. NFC is the great hope, and Mobile World Congress organisers the GSMA claim that between 2012-2016 1.5 billion handsets will feature NFC technology. There are also predictions that mobile payments could be worth up to $240bn.
With such high stakes, no wonder the major UK telecoms companies are scrambling to make sure they get it right – and get it right quickly.