Isis, the carrier-run mobile-payments venture, says it plans to move out of pilot and into a full national rollout this year, but it is hesitant to set a specific date for a countrywide launch.
Owned by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, Isis has been testing its contactless payment technology in Salt Lake City and in Austin, Texas, since October.
The cities have been a petri dish for the consortium, explains Jaymee Johnson, Isis’ head of marketing.
He says that since last fall, the number of merchants with contactless terminals, a necessity for Near Field Communication-based mobile payments, has quadrupled to roughly 4,000 locations. Those users are tapping their phones, on average, roughly 10 times a month.
Isis is, however, being coy about setting an actual country-wide launch date.
“We are just saying that we are launching this year, simply to give the broader ecosystem time to act,” Johnson says. “It’s important for us to give the market visibility into where we are going and what we are doing.”
Isis still has a long way to go to become a viable mobile-payments provider. It’s still hesitant to say how many consumers in the pilot cities are participating, and various key smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, have yet to roll out phones that support NFC.
Moreover, merchant acceptance of NFC-based payments, especially outside large urban areas, remains low, and some retailers see advantages in supporting QR code-based systems instead. Banks also have been working on their own mobile-payment initiatives, often with the help of traditional players in the payments space. It’s uncertain many will be willing to strike deals with a carrier-based system to support their mobile initiatives.
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