Discover, carriers partner on mobile payments

By Wailin Wong
Posted Nov. 16, 2010 at 8:27 a.m.

Riverwoods-based Discover Financial Services is working with a new joint venture, created by three national wireless carriers, to develop a national network for payments via mobile phones.

AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless announced the joint venture, called Isis, on Tuesday. The group named Michael Abbott, a former executive at GE Capital, as its CEO.

“While mobile payments will be at the core of our offering, it is only the start,” Abbott said in a statement. “We plan to create a mobile wallet that ultimately eliminates the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes.”

The group said it is working with Discover to develop the infrastructure for the mobile payment system. Barclaycard US, owned by Barclays PLC, will be the first issuer on the network. The venture said it plans to launch its service in selected markets within the next year and a half.

The initial roll-out of Isis will focus on using mobile phones for point-of-sale purchases. Isis uses near-field communications, a wireless technology that allows devices near each other to exchange encrypted information. This technology is already in use with certain merchants such as gas stations and convenience stores in the U.S., with consumers able to scan their mobile phone or a smartcard at the register.

The venture said Discover’s network covers more than 7 million merchants nationwide, and the three carriers collectively have more than 200 million customers.

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