U.S. Mobile Operators Reportedly to Announce Joint Venture, CEO

An announcement by major U.S. mobile carriers of their joint venture to launch NFC-based mobile payment and other services, including the naming of a CEO, is imminent, according to sources and news reports.

That announcement, following months of silence by the telcos despite numerous reports, could happen this week, as early as later today. The announcement likely will include the naming of a CEO to run the venture, formed earlier this year by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA. The new CEO is being reported as Michael Abbott, former chief marketing officer for the Retail Consumer Finance business of General Electronic Co. The GE Money unit is the largest issuer of private-label store credit cards in the United States, with such clients as Wal-Mart Stores and Lowe's. 

NFC Times has learned that GE Money had been in talks with the mobile carriers about partnering with the planned joint venture as early as two years ago. GE would have helped the telcos offer mobile credit cards to their tens of millions of subscribers, using NFC phones and perhaps other contactless-mobile devices. The telcos plan to offer other services through mobile wallets they will pitch to consumers. Pilots are planned for late next year.

The venture reportedly counts Discover Financial Services and Barclaycard US as partners in the venture. Discover would offer its retail acceptance network and the Barclays bank U.S. unit would provide banking services.

The telcos had searched for a CEO for months and NFC Times learned they had been close to making an appointment on at least one occasion. The long-overdue hiring could help bring focus to the group, which faces an uphill climb to successfully take on the major U.S. card networks Visa and MasterCard, along with major U.S. banks in launching a new payment service. Bloomberg news reported Abbott’s appointment.

With Abbott, the telcos get a payments executive not tied to the mobile industry. He reportedly joined GE in 2004 and was named chief marketing officer for the retail consumer finance business two years later. He previously reportedly worked at Fleet Credit Card Services.

The private-label card business was hit hard by the financial crisis last year. GE had been looking to exit the business earlier, in late 2007, but reportedly could not find a buyer. Under Abbott, GE, among other deals, announced in early 2005 a contract to issue a new credit card for Wal-Mart using Discover’s network.

Abbott might be able to help the telcos recruit more merchants to accept contactless payment issued through the telcos from NFC phones. NFC uses the same contactless technology as standard contactless cards, but only about 100,000 merchant locations in the United States accept the technology at the point of sale. That is less than 2% of the total U.S. card-accepting merchants.

While other services, such as mobile advertising, loyalty programs and event ticketing are expected to populate mobile wallets the telcos offer, payment will anchor the wallets. Therefore, expanding acceptance is vital to making the joint venture a success, observers agree.

The joint venture plans to launch three to four pilots during the second half of next year, using NFC phones expected to be introduced by smartphone makers earlier in 2011. The telcos have hired France-based Gemalto as a trusted service manager for the pilots. U.S.-based C-Sam is said to be developing the mobile-wallet software.

Among those smartphones will be models supporting Google’s Android operating system. In unrelated news, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt yesterday disclosed plans for Android’s next version, 2.3, known as Gingerbread, to support NFC. Schmidt, speaking yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, talked about Android phones being used for NFC-based payment.

"The theory of the case is that you'll be able to take these mobile devices from everybody, and you'll be able to walk into a store and do commerce and be able to figure out where you are, again with your permission," Schmidt was quoted as saying. "It could eventually literally replace your credit card."

HEADLINE NEWS

Report: Nearly Two-Thirds of Survey Respondents Say They’ve Used Contactless Cards During Pandemic

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – There’s more evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic is helping to change the way that consumers pay, with more use of contactless cards, mobile wallets and e-commerce channels, according to the “World Payments Report 2020” published Tuesday by global consulting firm Capgemini.

UK Public Transit Officials in Midlands Seek to Replicate London’s Success in Pay-as-You-Go Contactless

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Transit officials in the Midlands in the UK today are calling on the government to fund a London-style contactless fare-payments system across this large section of the country, which would enable riders to tap to pay for trips on rail, bus and tram networks with either closed- and open-loop cards and credentials on smartphones.  

Post-Lockdown, Transit Riders Want Agencies to Run Vehicles More Frequently, Provide Real-Time Arrival Information and Offer Contactless and Mobile Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight - Up to a third of transit riders in several cities say contactless payments and mobile ticketing would encourage them to return t

New York’s OMNY Project Completes Major Milestone, as Transit Officials Point to Steady Growth in Adoption

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it is seeing steady growth in use of its OMNY open-loop fare payments system by customers–though overall open-loop payments remain small–as the agency continues its phased rollout of acceptance of contactless EMV bank cards and NFC Pays wallets. 

In-Depth: Trip-Planning Giant Moovit Begins to Enable Ticketing and Payments, as Rivals Make Similar Moves

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Moovit, which bills itself as the world's largest “urban mobility app,” has begun to enable public transit ticketing and payments from its platform, as it seeks to deliver what it says is a true mobility-as-a-service experience for users.

Los Angeles Transit Authority Follows Through with Plans to Enable TAP Card for Apple Pay; Google Pay to Follow

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Another major U.S. transit agency has introduced a virtual closed-loop card for Apple Pay this week, with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, announcing the move Thursday. It comes a couple of days after the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, announced it had put its SmarTrip closed-loop card on Apple’s NFC-enabled devices, as well.

Apple Enables Virtual SmarTrip Fare Card for Apple Pay in Washington, D.C., with More Closed-Loop Transit Cards Expected This Year in U.S.

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Apple added support for its latest closed-loop transit card for Apple Pay, enabling customers of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, to tap their NFC-enabled iPhones and Apple Watches to pay for rides with WMATA’s SmarTrip virtual card.

Insight: Apple’s Long Game Pays Off, Conquering Resistance to Apple Pay from Banks in Europe and Beyond

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – It’s coming up on six years since Apple announced its groundbreaking digital-payments service, Apple Pay. And while consumer adoption remains a work in progress, Apple has had considerable success gaining participation from banks and other issuers in what is now more than 50 countries worldwide.

Transit Agency in Canada Plans to Launch Mobile Ticketing, Citing Covid Fears

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Another transit agency in Canada has announced it will enable mobile ticketing, along with reloadable contactless cards, citing in part the Covid-19 pandemic and the desire to reduce the use of cash, vending machines and customer interaction with agency staff.

Biggest U.S. Supermarket Chain Trials Contactless as Covid-19 Fears Increase Demand for ‘No-Touch Payments’

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The announcement by The Kroger Co., the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., that it has begun trialing contactless payments in a subsidiary indicates that one of the last major holdouts among big U.S. merchants will eventually accept such NFC payments services as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as contactless bank cards.

Southern California Transit Agency to Sell Tickets Via Google Maps and Google Pay; Others Expected to Follow

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – There’s more evidence that popular trip-planning apps Transit, Moovit and Google Maps are seeking to expand further into mobile ticketin

Insight: Apple Buys Mobile-POS Firm as It Seeks to Expand Acceptance of Contactless Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – In a move seeking to expand the base of merchants that can accept its payments service, Apple Pay, Apple has reportedly acquired Montreal, Canada-based mobile POS company Mobeewave, which could enable small shop owners, restaurants and street vendors, among others, to more easily accept contactless EMV cards and NFC mobile wallets.