Isis carriers pump in $100M for mobile wallet plan

Isis venture still on track for NFC-ready smartphone rollout in 2012

The three wireless carriers in the Isis mobile-payment joint venture are investing more than $100 million into the project, according to a published report.

A spokesman for Isis said he could not confirm the report, which was first made by the Bloomberg news service, citing people with knowledge of the project without naming them. Spokesmen for the three carriers -- AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA -- would not comment or could not be reached to comment.

Isis is set to launch pilot projects in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, in 2012 using near-field communication smartphones to make payments for goods and services. In July, Isis announced it is working with the four largest credit card providers, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, on the project. All four are expected to license payment security applications to the smartphones that the Isis carriers will sell.

Separately, Google announced in May its own mobile wallet project with Sprint, MasterCard and Citi, starting in cities including San Francisco and New York.

Visa last May announced its own initiative as well, which could move forward separately from its affiliation with Isis.

Analysts have characterized the mobile wallet revolution as slow to materialize in the U.S., compared to Japan and South Korea, partly because of competition between financial services companies. Any successful NFC mobile wallet initiative will require a critical mass of NFC-ready phones, willing retailers and cooperative banks that would back the credit extended to the phone users, said analyst Bob Egan of The Sepharim Group.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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