Mass Adoption of NFC Payments ‘Will be a Slow but Steady Process’

Mobile payments with Google Wallet are growing fast, but the road to wide acceptance of near field communication (NFC) transactions will be slow, according to the head of Google’s payments unit.

Speaking at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in San Jose, California, Osama Bedier, Google’s vice president of wallet and payments, reported that the number of NFC transactions with Google Wallet doubled in the six weeks following the 1 August US launch of a cloud-based version, and that trend has continued, although in keeping with Google’s practice he did not offer a figure for the exact number of transactions.

“We feel like we’re making a huge difference on transaction volume,” Bedier said, but added that mobile payments won’t be an overnight success. “We didn’t think NFC was just going to happen in a single year. This is a three-to-five-year game.”

US consumers have so far shown limited interest in mobile payments, which analysts attribute largely to the country’s well-developed credit card network. They cite the fact that payments with NFC require hardware and software in both handsets and point-of-sale (POS) terminals. In addition, there are three systems competing, each with a different set of strong backers.

Google’s NFC payment technology, part of its overarching Google Wallet programme for virtual wallets, is rivaled by systems being promoted by big mobile operators and by retailers. The ISIS consortium, which includes AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, plans to launch its platform in two cities on Monday. In August, retailers including Walmart, Target and 7-Eleven formed their own mobile payments network, Merchant Customer Exchange.

“The problem is, there’s a lot of ideas and not a lot of problems being solved,” Bedier said. “There’s room for multiple solutions … but each solution has to have a value proposition.” He remains confident that NFC will catch on in the long term. “I do believe, five years out, you’ll have NFC in almost every phone and almost every terminal,” he forecast. When that happens, checkout lines will start to disappear as shoppers will be able to complete at least half of their store purchases without going to a counter, Bedier added.

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