O2 Aims to Boost Wallet with NFC Payments

UK mobile operator O2 has moved a step closer to launching its own near field communication (NFC)-enabled mobile wallet after beginning active tests on a new service.

The company launched its O2 Wallet earlier this year but it came without NFC after O2 Money managing director, James Le Brocq, said there was “some way to go” before the service would catch on. O2 Wallet allows users to transfer cash and make purchases at more than 100 retailers.

However, O2 Money commercial director, Simon Cottenham, now says that work had begun on bringing NFC to the existing O2 Wallet. This would bring the operator into line with rival operator EE (formerly Everything Everywhere), which is developing an NFC payments service with Mastercard, in addition to its Orange Quick Tap service, and Vodafone, whose mobile payments proposition with Visa will launch by the end of its 2013 financial year.

Cottenham said: “We are actively looking at building an NFC wallet and [are] testing internally to see what works and what will link well into the O2 Wallet,” said Cottenham. He did not offer a launch date for the service, but added that among the features being examined was tying the Wallet to so-called ‘smart posters’, which are NFC-enabled.

In addition to building new features into the Wallet, Cottenham said O2 was about to launch a social media campaign to promote awareness of mobile payments. He declined to reveal how many people have signed up to the service since it launched in April but added: “We are comfortable with the figures and have a significant number of people signed up.”

Cottenham acknowledged that take-up of mobile payment services in the UK has been much slower than in regions such as Africa and the Far East. He said: ‘It’s an interesting area because with UK consumers, we are meeting a need that they don’t yet have a burning desire for. It’s meeting a need that they don’t recognise yet. Ourselves and our competitors have built services with some good benefits but we need to work to explain their benefits.”

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