EE, Vodafone And O2 Submit Plans For Mobile Wallet Joint Venture

Shared mobile payment scheme needs European approval

Three of the UK’s largest mobile network operators have submitted plans to the European commission to create a single company responsible for developing and advertising a mobile payments platform.

Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere, composed of Orange and T-Mobile, are hoping that Project Oscar will challenge the likes of Apple and Google who are developing their own rival platforms using near field communications (NFC) technology.

Advancing mobile payments in the UK

“The JV [joint venture] will benefit businesses which are keen to participate in mobile commerce – such as retailers, banks and advertisers – by providing them with a platform to easily deliver their services to the UK mobile population,” said the mobile operators in a statement.

“The JV will also promote competition by bringing together the necessary scale to offer a credible alternative to the established online payments and advertising platforms offered by large US-based internet players.”

PayPal, one such established online platform, hit out at NFC technology at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, saying that point-of-sales terminals will be obsolete in retail by the time that the technology achieves mass adoption.

However, this warning has not stopped the likes of Apple, who earlier this week obtained a patent on a future ‘iWallet’ service, and Google, whose Google Wallet recently had a security scare, setting out plans for a UK-wide launch before the Olympics.

Visa and Barclaycard have also helped pioneer NFC payments in the UK, including a roll out of more than 56,000 terminals. The two predicted that 85 per cent of point-of-sale terminals will be contactless-enabled by 2016.

Project Oscar’s primary hurdle to clear at the European commission will come from Three, the UK’s smallest mobile network. Three was offered a stake in the venture last year, but negotiations to join the platform broke down.

“The proposed joint venture should not be permitted in its current form,” Stephen Learner, regulatory affairs director at Three, told The Guardian. “It will control and sell access to over 90 percent of UK mobile subscribers and their data thus allowing [the partners] to neatly do away with the inconvenience of competing with each other.”