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AT&T Offers a Square mCommerce Competitor

AT&T may be promoting its Isis mobile payments service for consumers, but it's not betting the farm on it. The carrier introduced another new commerce offering Tuesday, its answer to Square for businesses.

The carrier has teamed up with payment processing vendor Vantiv to offer two new mobile payments products: Vantiv Mobile Accept from AT&T, a mobile app card reader similar in scope to the Square Inc. mobile reader, and Vantiv Mobile Checkout from AT&T, a tablet-based payment processing service that includes an optional cash drawer, countertop receipt printer, tablet stand, and encrypted card reader.

Both are designed for retailers, businesses, or individuals such as field service employees and the self-employed. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) suggests a restaurant owner could use Mobile Checkout to take table-side payments during busy hours or a retailer could request an email with payment to target that customer with a marketing campaign.

AT&T says the payment services start at $15 per month, and it's also hoping to make money from leasing the tablets and associated LTE data plans to its business customers.

Why this matters
AT&T is hoping to capitalize on what it anticipates will be a huge market for mobile payments, but it's also stepping onto Square's turf. Square has found tremendous success offering a card reader that attaches to a mobile device for a secure, easy payment process. The secret to its success has been the 2.75% flat fee it charges merchants per credit card transaction. (See $4B: A Big, Square Number?)

Vantiv, of course, isn't AT&T's only dog in the mobile payments fight. It's also involved in the Isis joint venture with Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US Inc. Isis hasn't yet proven to be popular in the US, stymied by high fees and a limited presence, but the service also just went nationwide in November, and the group has yet to provide a progress report. (See Isis Opens Its Mobile Wallet Nationwide.)

Operators, in general, have so far had a hard time competing in mobile commerce. One of the early examples, Telefónica UK Ltd. 's Mobile Wallet was shut down last week, causing some to question if Isis would be next. (See Euronews: O2 UK Shuts Its Mobile Wallet.)

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 1/14/2014 | 12:14:06 PM
business models I imagine who retailers work with comes down to security and business model. Square's business model is pretty economical for small business owners who aren't doing huge transactions. AT&T is targeting businesses of all size, but I wonder how its $15 per month will work out in comparison. 
Sarah Thomas 1/14/2014 | 2:51:42 PM
Re: business models BTW, Square reportedly has a $5B valuation and they are moving into bigger retailers. I wouldn't dismiss them as a competitor at all. http://www.bloomberg.com/video/square-s-cashless-transactions-build-5b-valuation-rldkcbVKSzW9eTBjyLdFDg.html
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