Sprint was the odd man out when the other major wireless carriers–Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile —announced a partnership with Discover to support wireless payments on mobile devices last year. However with that system possibly not ready until 2012, there may be an opening.
The company told Bloomberg that it is already working on a system with payment vendors and handset makers, and it plans to have it in place this year. While so-called near field communication (NFC) support would likely not be enough to attract customers to the brand itself, it certainly would give Sprint some bragging rights.
As of late there seems to be a mad rush to support mobile payments, with quite a bit of news in the space. Last month I told you about Google’s plans to begin testing a payment service in New York and San Francisco that would tie in with some type of coupon service: this was followed later by news that Microsoft was working with Verifone on its own solution. It seems like 2011 will be the breakout year for NFC.
Sprint’s idea is similar to Google’s, with its service is tied to a loyalty program aimed at giving incentives for using the mobile payment option. Charges would be processed through the user’s credit card statement, not their cellular phone bill.
As I’ve said in the past with NFC, whether this catches on will be dependent on how serious the phone manufacturers become in including the technology within new phones. ABI Research seems to believe that time is not too far off, with 35 million devices with NFC shipped in 2011, and double that forecasted for 2012. By 2014, some 340 million mobile users could potentially be using the technology, the firm believes.