Rumored Q1 Google Wallet Pilot in UK is Unlikely
Reports that Google is planning to launch its Google Wallet in the United Kingdom during the first quarter as a pilot is only a rumor, a source close to Google told NFC Times.
The report, which apparently originated in French business publication Les Echos, on Thursday, stated that Google plans to trial the wallet in London with payment and couponing during the first quarter of 2012, with the goal of commercially launching the wallet in time for the launch of the Olympics next summer in London. Google has been in discussions with UK banks, among other companies preparing for the launch, said the report.
While NFC Times has reported earlier Google’s discussions with European banks and Google’s goal, stated last June, of launching NFC in Europe by mid-2012, the Web giant is unlikely to be able to meet that goal. It’s also unlikely it would be able to manage even a trial by the first quarter.
Google would need to sign up merchants to support offers and other nonpayment applications, otherwise it could only enable payment at the roughly 60,000 terminals that accept MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave in the United Kingdom. And the Web giant would have to work with UK mobile operators to put the secure wallet applications onto SIM cards the telcos issue.
UK carriers, like others in Europe and beyond, are insisting that their SIMs serve as the premier secure element in the NFC phones they sell. And the UK telcos are not exactly enthusiastic about Google’s plans to enter their market with its wallet, since they have their own wallet plans.
It’s technically possible Google could launch a trial or even a small rollout without the support of a mobile operator, using one of its own phones, such as the Nexus S or Galaxy Nexus, sold through nonoperator channels. The Galaxy Nexus hit store shelves in recent weeks in the United Kingdom.
Google has said it would be willing to work with telcos to anchor its wallet to their SIMs and has likely held some discussions with one or more UK telcos. But those discussions are unlikely to bear fruit so soon.
In the United States, Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. operator in the United States, is trying to block the Google Wallet from its version of the Galaxy Nexus that is due to go on sale this month.
Verizon has denied that it is blocking the wallet and said it is in talks with Google. Google confirmed, however, the telco asked it not to include the wallet functionality on the phone, meaning Verizon customers wouldn’t be able to load the application.