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Telefónica UK Launches O2 Wallet; Promises NFC Later in 2012

Telefónica UK, known as O2, launched its long anticipated O2 Wallet today, offering text-based money transfers and online product searches and purchasing, but no NFC yet.

The operator had planned to launch the wallet last year, including an NFC-based O2 Money prepaid application. But the project has been delayed.

“The O2 Wallet will be NFC-enabled from later in 2012,” an O2 spokeswoman told NFC Times. “We recognize that contactless payments, tap and go, will be very appealing to consumers in time. We are working towards overcoming some stumbling blocks, e.g., a lack of awareness and understanding amongst consumers, confusion over how to use contactless and a lack of retailers with the appropriate terminals.”

O2 has promised NFC before but has been unable to deliver so far. It was thought to be planning some type of introduction of NFC for the London Olympics this summer, which is still possible.

O2 is also part of the proposed Project Oscar NFC joint venture with competing operators Everything Everywhere and Vodafone UK. The telcos are awaiting a decision–due in late August–by European Union antitrust regulators on whether they can go ahead with the venture.

Besides setting technical specifications and business rules for NFC payment applications, Oscar would provide a single contact point for advertisers, media agencies, retailers and brands, the telcos have said.

O2 could launch NFC without Oscar. Rival Orange UK, part of Everything Everywhere, launched a small NFC rollout, Quick Tap, in May of 2011. Vodafone UK said in late February that it planned to launch NFC payments as part of its partnership with Visa Europe in at least five European countries including the UK over the following 12 months.

For its O2 Wallet launch today, the telco said it is offering a Visa-branded “O2 Money Account Card,” which consumers could use for online purchases. And they could apply for a physical O2 Money card, as well, which will be a contactless EMV card.

The contactless card could be tapped to pay at more than 100,000 contactless terminals at retail locations in the UK, noted O2.

The telco said users could pay with other digital debit or credit cards in the wallet for online purchases. And when they shop on their phones, the wallet would enable them to use bar codes or a search engine to compare prices on products from more than 100 online retailers.

There is also a wallet icon called “My Offers,” enabling them to get daily discounts and deals.

With “Money Message,” wallet users would be able to securely transfer money to any UK mobile phone number. The service allows for daily transfers of up to £500 (US$809.63)

 

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