AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA are exploring a joint venture to test out a mobile-payment service in select markets, according to people familiar with the situation.The U.S. carriers are working with Discover Financial Services and Barclays PLC on a trial, the people said, which would involve allowing customers to pay for goods and services by holding their smartphones at cash registers or taxis. Bloomberg News earlier reported on the proposed venture.The unlikely alliance of rival wireless carriers underscores the difficulties of setting up a mobile payment system, which has been stalled by the need for broad cooperation from carriers, handset makers, banks and credit-card companies, each with competing agendas.The carriers, in particular, have pushed to maintain a larger role to avoid being relegated to a simple pipe connecting the consumers cellphone.A partnership with Discover, a second-tier player, suggests that the carriers are lining up against the more widely accepted companies, including Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc., which have their own plans for mobile payments.”Discover is always evaluating technology solutions that make things faster, safer, and more convenient for cardmembers, merchants, acquirers and issuers,” according to a company spokeswoman.The venture would focus on using a technology called near-field communication, also known as contactless payment. NFC chips are already found in credit cards, which are activated when a customer waves them in front of a sensor found near certain point-of-sale terminals, such as drugstore cash registers.The technology isnt new, but handset makers are reluctant to install it into phones because there has been little progress in the area. Consulting firm Philliou Selwanes Partners LLC said there are 500,000 contactless readers in more than 140,000 locations in the U.S.
August 2, 2010