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April 16, 2012, 10:33 a.m.
It was reported today that the European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and Telefnica O2’s proposed mobile wallet JV and is expected to give its final ruling whether to let the venture move forward by the end of August http://bit.ly/HO9SqP . The EC has been involved in this matter for several months now, and with the new investigation have just extended the resolution of it.
If you wanted to point to one singular event that is holding up the progress of NFC mobile wallets/mobile payments in the world, it is this ludicrous regulatory mess.
Mobile network operators across Europe have formed JVs and alliances of some form to propel mobile payments forward. The French operators are moving along without any objection from the EC, but you can bet all operators in Europe have stopped most of their work in launching NFC payments/mobile wallets until this challenge, brought by 3, is resolved.
Due to the EC involvement, the flow of NFC capable, mobile wallet –ready handsets in Europe has stopped. OEMs require scale to profitably produce and market mobiles. They and their mobile network operator partners are not going to offer those mobiles to the public until they are sure they can do so without regulatory reprisals. Thanks to the regulatory action, the opportunity to use the Summer Olympics as a way to grandly introduce global consumers to NFC mobile payments is gone.
It will be impossible to make an NFC enabled mobile wallet, which requires specific investments by device OEMs and mobile network operators to establish one or more secure elements within the handset, a totally free and open ecosystem, at least in these formative years.