Isis gains 50 merchant partners for NFC trial
US mobile payments venture will kick off test services in two cities soon, and claims retailer momentum is building
Published: 15 May, 2012
Isis, the mobile payments joint venture between three US operators, has signed up 50 merchant partners to support its upcoming trials, according to the partners AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
Among the retailers willing to test the NFC-enabled system, which will support in-store payments using handsets, are Coca-Cola, Macy's, and Foot Locker. The first test runs will be in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah, and some of the participants will also be local merchants in those cities. All the stores have been fitted out with the Isis terminals ahead of the start of trials.
"A strong merchant base in Austin and Salt Lake City will make the Isis Mobile Wallet real for consumers as they choose to use their mobile wallet at many of their favorite merchant locations to pay and redeem offers," said Jim Stapleton, chief sales officer for Isis, in a statement.
It has been a slow road to get to this point, and Isis needs to build momentum quickly because it faces various rival NFC-driven schemes, such as Google Wallet. Financial institutions are keeping their options open, while some major payments brands, like Visa, are planning their own schemes at the same time as supporting third party initiatives like Isis. But gaining the support of a large base of retailers is seen as the biggest hurdle in the way of NFC achieving its somewhat overhyped potential.
When it was first announced, Isis was trying to bypass the payment card majors to create a fully operator-driven system, but soon succumbed to a more pragmatic approach and welcomed a range of processing partners into its fold. It is also open to further cellcos. Sprint has remained aloof, launching its own mobile services and supporting Google Wallet. But others are evaluating their options - Matt Stoiber, SVP in charge of Leap Wireless's devices business, said this week that the regional carrier was currently weighing up different choices including Isis and Google Wallet.
The Google offering is further down the track than Isis at this stage, although it has met various obstacles including security concerns, a limited section of supporting handsets, and lukewarm carrier uptake. The main compatible smartphones are Google's own Nexus range, though the wallet was disable on Verizon's version of Galaxy Nexus.