Isis Confirms Second NFC Pilot City

Jun 22 2011

Isis chief executive Michael Abbott has confirmed that the second pilot city for the U.S. mobile carrier joint venture will be Austin, Texas.

As NFC Times reported in April, Austin was expected to join Salt Lake City, Utah, as a location for a planned trial of Isis NFC services. Isis is made up of AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA.

Abbott confirmed the trial to the Austin American-Statesman yesterday, saying the city was among 30 to 40 cities the joint venture had evaluated as pilot sites. Among the criteria Isis looked at were demographics of the cities, including the percentage of youthful residents, education levels and willingness to adopt new technologies early. Austin is the home of the main campus of the University of Texas.

Update: In a press release issued today, Isis said Austin would be one of its “initial launch markets” for NFC-based mobile commerce during the first half of 2012.

“Austin is home to progressive and tech-savvy consumers and merchants–a key demographic for Isis’ mobile commerce program,” said Abbott in a statement. “The city’s culture of innovation, thriving business community and early adopters make it an ideal launch market for Isis.”

The release states that Austin consumers will be able to use “Isis-enabled” mobile phones to make retail purchases and redeem offers at “participating merchant locations throughout the city.” End update.

In April, Isis said it had concluded an agreement with the Utah Transit Authority, or UTA, to accept the Isis brand from NFC phones, along with other payment brands, to pay fares on buses and other transit. Isis said the trial would be followed by a rollout in the city, including at merchant locations throughout Salt Lake City. While the UTA is equipped to handle open-loop payment from contactless bank cards and NFC phones, merchants in the city are not yet well covered by contactless terminals.

Isis has since abandoned its plans to launch its own Isis-brand payment network and instead will enable NFC payment and other applications, such as merchant loyalty and couponing, through an Isis wallet. In Austin, the joint venture has been demonstrating the technology to merchants.

Since the U.S. carriers announced Isis in November, other competitors have sprung up, most notably Google, which unveiled its planned NFC mobile wallet last month. Google is working with Sprint, the only major U.S. telco not part of Isis, for the launch, along with Citigroup, MasterCard Worldwide and First Data.

Google plans the wallet launch in New York and San Francisco this summer, followed by launches in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., according to sources.

But despite the planned Google launch this year and the fact that Isis is no longer trying to build its own payment network, the telco joint venture said it does not plan to move up the dates of its planned pilots.

“Isis remains on track to launch in key markets, including Salt Lake City, in early to mid-2012,” a spokeswoman told NFC Times recently. “In the short term, we are committed to developing a comprehensive, open mobile commerce platform that aligns the interests of consumers, merchants, banks, payment networks and carriers.”

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