Carriers Pull Back on Mobile Wallet Plans

By  |  Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm

It appears that T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon’s ambitious plans to create a mobile payment service may not happen, at least the way they’re hoping. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the carriers may now decide to partner with credit card companies instead to make the network happen.

Originally, the service (called “Isis”) was to bypass the traditional credit card companies altogether: charges would appear directly on consumer’s cellular phone bills. The abrupt 180 may be due to ensuring Isis has any chance of success — leveraging the power of Visa and MasterCard could go a long way.

Discover was originally the key partner in the effort, but its market share–only 3.3 percent share of credit card transactions–likely gave retailers pause on dealing with the group. (85 percent of all credit transactions processed through Visa or MasterCard.)

Isis says that Discover remains a partner, but it was open to including other partners. It remains to be seen though if it ever gets off the ground now, since the carriers now have no way of making money off the venture — the whole point of it in the first place.

This could be interesting to watch — considering that Sprint is developing its own network, Google’s testing its own system, and Microsoft is working with Verifone to bring NFC to Windows Phone. It’s a busy time for NFC, and nobody wants to get left behind.

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