O2 has moved a step closer to launching its own NFC-enabled mobile wallet after beginning active tests on a new service.
The operator launched its O2 Wallet earlier this year but it came without NFC after the managing director of O2 Money, James Le Brocq, said there was ‘some way to go’ before the service would catch on. O2 Wallet allows users to transfer cash and make purchases at more than 100 retailers.
However, speaking to Mobile, Simon Cottenham (pictured), commercial director for O2 Money, said work had begun on bringing NFC to the existing O2 Wallet. This would bring the operator into line with EE, which is developing an NFC payments service with Mastercard, in addition to its Orange Quick Tap service, and Vodafone, whose mobile payments proposition with Visa will launch by the end of its 2013 financial year. Cottenham said: ‘We are actively looking at building an NFC wallet and [are] testing internally to see what works and what will link well into the O2 Wallet.’ A launch date for the service was not revealed but Cottenham said that among the features being examined was tying the Wallet to so-called ‘smart posters’, which are NFC-enabled.
In addition to building new features into the Wallet, Cottenham said O2 was about to launch a social media campaign to promote awareness of mobile payments. He refused to discuss how many people have signed up to the service since it launched in April but added: ‘We are comfortable with the figures and have a significant number of people signed up.’
Cottenham accepted that the take-up of mobile payment services in the UK has been much slower than in other regions such as Africa and the Far East. He said: ‘It’s an interesting area because with UK consumers, we are meeting a need that they don’t yet have a burning desire for. It’s meeting a need that they don’t recognise yet. Ourselves and our competitors have built services with some good benefits but we need to work to explain their benefits.’
O2 is one of the operators working on the Project Oscar mobile payments joint venture, along with EE and Vodafone. The venture, recently rechristened Weve, has started work on developing a mobile marketing platform for businesses.
Cottenham was speaking as the operator launched a new mobile point-of-sale service (mPOS). The service, which Cottenham said would be largely targetedat tradespeople, allows users to take card payments through their smartphone or tablet via a Bluetooth accessory. O2 will take a cut of each payment made, as well as the participating card providers American Express, Mastercard and Visa, said Cottenham. The service is currently available for Android and BlackBerry devices but an iOS version is forthcoming.
Editor: Graeme Neill