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Vodafone to launch biggest mobile wallet next year

Vodafone will launch what could be the world's largest mobile wallet next year. The U.K.-based wireless provider will be offering a mobile payment product to its more than 400 million global subscribers. The company announced that mobile wallet provider CorFire and digital security company Gemalto will be partnering on the effort.

The plan is to launch mobile wallet services by the middle of next year in Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and the U.K., Vodafone said. In an email, a company spokesman said Vodafone will then offer the service in other countries within the next five years. Vodafone currently operates in 30 countries around the world.

Corfire, the m-commerce unit of SK C&C USA, will be providing its CorPay mobile wallet for the effort. In a call with Mobile Payments Today, Pascal Caillon, vice president for business development and strategy for Corfire, said the Vodafone mobile wallet will be the first to be deployed across Europe as well as the first through a mobile network operator of Vodafone's size.

The agreement also is significant in that it validates CorFire's "multi-tennant" mobile wallet strategy, Caillon said. CorPay's approach will not only let users store multiple payment card types, but eventually it will also allow them to add non-payment applications such as transit passes, tickets, loyalty cards and even building access cards.

While Corfire will be making the mobile wallet product usable, Gemalto will be making it secure with its global Trusted Service Management platform. The TSM is a crucial part of securing any NFC mobile wallet. It's responsible for things like provisioning accounts in real time and associating them with a user's mobile device. Additionally, Gemalto will provide its UpTeq NFC SIM chips to store data on mobile devices securely.

"With the experience of dozens of TSM deployments worldwide, Gemalto brings significant accumulated expertise from both the telecoms and banking sectors," said Philippe Vallée, executive vice president of telecommunications at Gemalto.

Bigger than payments

Beyond the scale of the Vodafone mobile wallet, reaching potentially 400 million users, the scope of the project is ambitious, as well. The long-term goal for Vodafone isn't just a mobile payment platform, but a common platform that will make it easier for service providers to gain access to Vodafone's subscriber base.

"The idea is to somehow standardize the mobile wallet interface," said Caillon. While admitting that there's still work to be done, and that a project this broad will face some challenges, he said that by the middle of next year, mobile wallets will support easy onboarding of providers.  

Vodafone's attitude on offering a standard mobile wallet, as opposed to trying to "win" with a proprietary product, is reflected in its ongoing commitment to "Project Oscar," the joint venture it launched with rival U.K. carriers. That JV has now been officially dubbed Weve. Announced last year, the consortium is meant to be a means by which any third party provider can gain access to the combined subscriber base of Great Britain's three largest mobile network operators, Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere.

In its email to Mobile Payments Today, Vodafone pledged that its product "will be compatible with Weve standards to ensure customers can transact with services of other operators in much the same way as they do with text, which is cross-network." The company added that Weve will ensure compatibility among end-user services from competing operators.

For more stories like this, visit the carriers/card schemes research center.

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