UK telco joint venture Weve has teamed up with MasterCard, promising to clean up the "mess" of mobile commerce and bring NFC-based m-payments to the masses.
Despite the hype, in-store mobile payments have yet to take off in the UK, with a host of contenders targeting various parts of a fragmented market, using different technologies.
Weve says that, unlike its rivals, it is not trying to reinvent the wheel, instead using the contactless payments infrastructure that MasterCard has helped to roll out over the last few years.
Tapping into the relationships that MasterCard has with banks, Weve plans to let customers link their MasterCard accounts to their handsets through their bank apps.
Once this is done, users will be able to wave their phone against the UK's 300,000 contactless readers to make payments of under £20. Because the system is SIM-based, it will work even if the handset is turned off. For payments of over £20 customers will enter a PIN on their handset - something they can do while waiting in line to pay.Weve CEO David Sear and MasterCard's president for UK and Ireland, Marion King, spoke to Finextra about their partnership
Weve says that it hopes to go live sometime in the first half of next year and is talking to banks but it has yet to go public with any names.
Several potential partners - including HSBC and Santander - have already committed to Zapp, a VocaLink-owned m-payments rival which bypasses MasterCard and instead uses the Faster Payments rails.
However, Weve hopes that its ubiquity - between them, the operators behind the JV, Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone, count around 80% of the UK's mobile phone users as customers - will help it come out on top.MasterCard's Marion King and Weve's David Sear
The venture is also pitching marketing and loyalty services as an important part of its appeal. It is already sending customers offers and incentives. The plan is to let users redeem these in-store through the tap of a handset and then get a prompt telling them that they can make the purchase using Weve.
Although rival technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy are being investigated by the likes of Apple and PayPal, Marion King, president UK and Ireland at MasterCard says that NFC has reached a tipping point, with 220% growth in the number of contactless transactions in Europe over the last year.
David Sear, CEO, Weve, says the venture is "building a payments system that takes existing industry contactless standards and builds mobile around them, rather than implementing new technologies and protocols that require everyone in the chain to learn something new".
While security concerns persist among many customers when it comes to contactless payments, the telcos are hoping that these will subside as the technology becomes more familiar.
Both EE and VodaFone are introducing their own pre-paid contactless m-payments services. Weve product development director Sean O'Connell says that this could act as stepping stone - acclimatising users to the technology with little financial risk so that they are eventually more willing to link their main debit or credit accounts to their phones.