EU Clears UK Mobile Payments JV 'Project Oscar'

EU regulators have reportedly cleared the mobile payments joint venture between the three dominant UK carriers (Everything Everywhere [T-Mobile + Orange], Vodafone and O2) of competition concerns. The smallest of the UK carriers, Hutchison Whampoa-owned 3, had complained about the competitive implications of the service. 

The joint venture, called Project Oscar, was supposed to be ready in time for the Olympics. The project had been in a bit of a state of limbo pending the European Commission’s approval, which has now been "unconditionally" granted. 

In many respects Project Oscar is a mirror of the US's ISIS (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon). Unlike ISIS, however, Oscar doesn't preclude any of the UK carriers from developing their own mobile payments systems. ISIS by contrast is intended to be a consumer brand, which will prove challenging to build, and would compete with any individual carrier payment initiatives. 

Like ISIS Oscar will use payment cards and not carrier billing. It will be accessible to third party financial institutions and retailers and is intended to work with all credit, debit and loyalty cards. Oscar will provide a payments infrastructure that can then be utizilized by the individual carriers involved (and potentially others) to create their own mobile payments services. 

Oscar and the services it spawns will also compete with Google Wallet (eventually) and PayPal, among others.