Mobile phone operator O2 is quietly building a backend infrastructure that will allow it to offer contactless mobile wallet payment capabilities as soon as the iPhone 5, which is widely tipped to feature NFC capabilities, goes on sale in the UK.
The Telefonica-owned has applied for an e-money licence which is most likely to be issued for it in the third quarter of 2011, just in time for the iPhone 5 which we predict will be launched at the beginning of June 2011, with shipments in July.
O2 head of financial services James le Brocq told Mobile news that O2 users will be able to make contactless payments with a small limit (possibly £10) at an estimated 60,000 point of sale.
The 2012 London Olympics has been identified as the catalyst that will allow payments using RFID technology to become mainstream. O2 already operates an O2 money, which is a Visa-based debit card service, and has been run as a low key operation.
The e-money licence will allow O2 to work as a virtual bank allowing O2 customers to make and potentially receive services without going through a bank (like Paypal) and unlike Orange which partnered with Barclaycard a few days ago.