AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are set to invest up to $100 million in the mobile payment initiative Isis and the move could be a major boost for NFC payments while also letting the carriers get a leg up on Google in this space.
If you remember, Isis is a joint venture that started with those three carriers and Discover which aimed to reinvent payment systems with NFC and phones. The company kind of backed off that original vision once Visa, MasterCard and American Express came on board and instead wanted to be a replacement for existing debit and credit cards, as well as allowing merchants to offer loyalty rewards with the same payment app. Oh, the Isis logo at the top isn’t actually the company’s logo – I was just watching Archer recently and had to use it.
Isis will be test piloting mobile payment programs with NFC in Salt Lake City and Austin in 2012 and it plans to expand rapidly once those results are in. With over 200 million mobile phone subscribers between them, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have a real chance to push NFC mobile payments to the mainstream.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the mobile world without some fragmentation and we may run into some of that with the upcoming Google Wallet, which is backed by Google, Sprint and American Express. This is supposed to be similar to Isis in that it will enable NFC phones to pay for goods by waving these devices at specific terminals.
There’s nothing clear right now about if these two systems will intermingle but I’m hoping that these systems will wind up like different credit cards: most places will have the infrastructure to accept different ones and the consumer gets to choose which one best fits their needs.