Isis Starts with Two Towns, Sprint Goes It Alone, Both Say Open, and the New Distinction

by George Peabody 0

The Isis mobile commerce joint-venture ofVerizon Wireless, AT&T, and AT&T’s acquisition targetT-Mobile has selected the first two cities for NFC paymentroll-out, Salt Lake City and Austin. Salt Lake City is a natural asthe Utah Transit Authority already accepts open-loop card payments.The reasons are less clear for Austin, but it is a tech-forwardtown and its home to Gemalto’s U.S. operation.

The Salt Lake City roll-out is scheduled for early to mid-2012.Transit is a natural as well because most people use it twice aday. That’s a lot of volume and a great opportunity for learningabout mobile commerce opportunities with nearby merchants.

Isis says its system will roll out nextyear, meaning people with enabled phones can make point-of-salepurchases at retailers across the Salt Lake City area by tappingtheir handsets against terminals.

The group has also inked a deal with Utah Transit Authority (UTA)to let people pay for journeys on public transport in the area withtheir phones. UTA already lets residents pay with contactlesscards.

What’s even more significant is thestatement from Isis that its exclusive deal with Discover is overand that it’s opening up its platform “to all merchants, banks,payment networks and mobile carriers.” An “open” NFC system is whatwe all want, but of course the devil is in the details of thebusiness arrangements.

Sprint, an early member of the Isis, has decided to go it aloneand itself announced pilot roll-out plans for late this year. Thecompany has claimed disinterest in the payment portion of thetransaction.

The New Distinction
And that’s the new distinction – the difference between mobilepayments and mobile commerce. Mobile commerce is, of course, thesuperset that includes everything from advertising, to couponing,loyalty programs and, yes, the payments. Google is interested inmobile commerce. Isis is positioning itself as a mobile commercecompany. No doubt Sprint will as well.

Crossing the bridge to this mobile commerce world is a crowd ofold and new media companies, outfits with pure Internet genetics,the incumbent service providers to merchants as well as thepayments industry. A colossal collision will take place on thatbridge and it’s an open question as to who will cross it alone orin partnership with others striving to make it to the otherside.

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