Mobile operator Orange UK and credit-card company Barclaycard have announced a long-term strategic partnership to develop mobile-payment technology including mobile-wallet handsets.
The pair said they will work together to launch new products and services to enable their combined base of more than 28 million customers to use their mobiles to make payments and better manage their finances — with the aim of "widespread adoption" of mobile contactless tech by 2012.
Customers will be able to use their mobiles to make 'wave and pay'-style payments of up to £10 at retailers that have contactless payment readers installed — currently almost 10,000 outlets in the UK, including the likes of Eat, Pret A Manger, Café Nero, Books Etc and Yo Sushi. The payment capabilities for the transactions will be provided by MasterCard.
A spokeswoman for Barclaycard told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com, that they are working on developing both NFC-enabled handsets and SIMs, and are talking to "a number of handset vendors" — but she would not give details of specific makers in discussions. Barclaycard is currently testing NFC payments technology with its staff, she added.
Orange UK added: "The Orange and Barclaycard partnership are discussing handset roadmaps and timescales at the moment with manufacturers."
The mobile operator said it believes "growing demand" for NFC technology will bring more NFC handsets onto the market over the next one to two years.
The pair said they plan to expand their partnership to incorporate other contactless services — such as ticketing and transport. Initial efforts will focus on "co-marketing opportunities" for the combined customer base over the next few months, and Orange admitted: "The contactless payment vision is somewhat further off."
Barclaycard has previously worked with mobile operator O2 on a contactless payments and Oyster mobile trial on the London Underground. The spokeswoman said its partnership with Orange is currently the only active partnership.
"At the moment the partnership is with Orange so we're going to develop what we can, as much as we can," she said, adding that both parties are committed to bringing m-payments to the market "as quickly as possible".
Earlier this year Barclays announced it would be working towards moving its entire fleet of debit cards onto a contactless footing, with all replacement cards issued from March this year being NFC-enabled. But the Barclaycard spokeswoman told silicon.com that mobiles are an attractive area because the mobile internet opens up a wide range of additional services such as account management.
She said: "The difference between a card and the mobile is having the access to the internet — this then opens the door for so much more. Mobile payments and servicing can just grow from there, because people will be able to walk down the street and, if they want to go and buy something, they can go online on their phone to their bank account, see how much money they've got… then they can go and buy something or it can give them updates on where they're at with their account for the month."
The spokeswoman added that the bank is also looking at developing 'SMS money', so customers can text cash to each other. Phones could also be used to scan items — via barcode or QR code reading tech — to allow users to get more information about products, she said.
In a recent research report, analyst house Juniper Research said NFC-enabled handsets will play a significant role in driving the overall global-payment mobile market.