Mobile Payments News: ISIS, InMobi-Opera and PayPal Carrier Payment Network

ISIS, the as-yet-unlaunched US mobile payments inititative from T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon has added new partners to its stable of credit card issuers and banks (BarclayCard, Capital One, and Chase), according to CNET. ISIS has been described as "Hulu for mobile payments."

I have been openly skeptical of the carriers' ability to mount a successful mobile payments intiatitive. But ISIS may turn out to be the tortise to Google Wallet's hare. The latter has been met with carrier resistence (which may be anticompetitive), security problems and limited consumer availability.

Google has been ahead of the market somewhat. But there are now also rumors that Google is internally disappointed with its Wallet initaitive and may be putting less effort into it. If so, it would be premature to "give up" on Google Wallet. 

In two related mobile payents developments, PayPal (through its Zong acquisition) is launching what it calls PayPal Carrier Payment Network; and InMobi and Opera have joined for digital goods payments. The PayPal effort is designed to build on top of the Zong-carrier infrastructure (eBay acquired Zong last year) and expand carrier billing to encompass more types of transactions and larger dollar amounts:

Historically, carrier payment has been utilized primarily by online game developers and publishers to provide a fast and easy way for users to purchase goods directly in-app or in-game. While convenient for consumers, this method of payment has inherent challenges for other digital goods merchants – such as digital books, music, dating and content – to adopt as a primary payment method. Among the challenges is the cost of doing business – sometimes upwards of 40 percent – since transactions are processed through the carrier, merchants must share part of their revenue.

Similary InMobi and Opera announced that the latter will integrate InMobi's payments platform to enable virtual goods payments and purchases through Opera:

InMobi SmartPay will enable Opera users to pay seamlessly for digital goods in key markets around the globe, when they make purchases with some of the leading publishers that partner with InMobi. The two companies are committed to providing choice to consumers, mobile content developers and app developers, by building viable third-party monetization solutions in the mobile browsing and computing space.

Most US consumers have no experience with mobile payments and still need be educated about their benefits. However, large numbers of smartphone owners will eventually adopt mobile payments over time. Four tenents of success will be: simplicity, ubiquity, rewards and security.

The convenience of not having to sign credit card slips will be a welcome imrovement in the retail and restaurant worlds. The abandonment of signature requirements for transactions under $25 in many places has created demand and some experience with a simplified transaction experience. Merchants have incentives to adopt mobile payments as well for greater efficiency at the point of sale and, if don't correctly, greater security too. 

Almost all of these mobile payments systems and platforms back onto a credit card. However, it's still early to pick winners and losers. As I indicate above, Google could wind up a loser and ISIS a winner -- though that's a bit counter-intuitive (given the challenges carriers face in execution generally). There are still others (e.g., Apple) that could enter the race at any point.

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