Mobile Commerce Sidesteps the Carriers

10:10 AM -- NEW ORLEANS -- International CTIA Wireless -- Just one day in to CTIA , it's clear that mobile commerce is heating up. It's also clear that the hotter the space gets, the more chances the operators have at losing relevance in it.

MasterCard is amongst the companies looking past the operators to stake a claim. The credit card company introduced PayPass Wallet Services, a payments platform that includes online payments, one-click contactless payments and an API for developers wanting to integrate it into their own offers. A spokeswoman for the company says it's all about working with the banks and merchants, and -- although MasterCard is a partner to the operators through Isis -- she doesn't see a role for the wireless operators until they have Near-Field Communications (NFC) chips widely deployed.

On-device payments...one way or another

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CEO Ralph de la Vega said in the carrier panel Tuesday that he expects mobile payments to be the most exciting technology in the coming year and noted that the technology and partnerships behind it are coming together.

But, my guess is that as these partnerships come together, the wireless operators will continue to sit on the sidelines. By virtue of their subscriber relationship, they are one of the biggest gating factors to NFC deployment. But, in the actual mCommerce value chain, their role becomes less necessary. (See NFC to Come Standard in Sprint LTE Phones.)

We're already seeing that happen as they get circumvented by agile startups like Square Inc. and companies with a direct billing relationship with customers like the credit card guys. (See $4B: A Big, Square Number? and Learning to Play Nice With NFC.)

We'll continue to see it happen, too, if the wireless operators don't find a way to be a valuable partner and not just a speed bump in mobile commerce's path.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:33:39 PM
re: Mobile Commerce Sidesteps the Carriers

Couldn't the carrier throw up roadblocks to these services if they want? Or maybe the path to true openess comes when you have some big money companies trying to run big money services on your network? Ha.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:33:38 PM
re: Mobile Commerce Sidesteps the Carriers

They can limit their functionality, like Verizon did to Google Wallet, but all the services run over the top of the operators' networks. Or, they'll just slap a sticker on your expensive smartphone instead. There's ways around the wireless operators, but they'd be better off just being better partners.

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