The UK is set to pioneer a contactless mobile payment system with the launch this summer of an NFC powered payments network following a partnership between Everything Everywhere (the chimera formed from the splicing together of T-Mobile and Orange) and credit card provider Barclaycard.
"This is the beginning of a revolution in how we pay for things on the high street," said Gerry McQuade, chief development officer, Everything Everywhere. "It’s a cultural shift that is as important as the launch of the personal credit card or ATMs."
A release issued by Barclaycard claims customers will be able to use their existing cell phones to make payments at more than 40,000 retailers after swapping out their current SIM cards for new ones equipped with NFC. MasterCard will provide the payments capabilities. Gemalto provides Barclays with Trusted Service Management operated services, which enable the secure deployment and management of mobile contactless payment.
"I believe that future generations will find it surprising that early this century we were still carrying separate items to buy goods and to communicate with each other," said David Chan, CEO, Barclaycard Consumer Europe. "As payment experts, our role is to make it easier, more convenient and incredibly secure for people to make purchases and manage their money while on the move."
Barclaycard has issued some 10 million contactless credit and debit cards, and has 42,500 live Barclaycard terminals currently in operation.
But NFC has many detractors, with the need to roll out expensive hardware at the point of sale to make it work being seen as the biggest barrier to widespread adoption of the technology. There is also the issue that chargebacks are untried and untested, not to mention the mess you’d be in if you lost your phone – how are you going to call the bank to stop your ‘card’?
While the Everything Everywhere-Barclaycard nexus and rumours that Apples iPhone 5 out this summer with feature NFC, it is worth noting that initiatives like Starbuck’s barcode based payment app could well be a more simple, cheap and inclusive method of making mobile payments mainstream – at least while the NFC hardware is rolled out, tested and integrated into merchant back ends.