Isis attracts the big four credit card companies

Mobile commerce gained some considerable momentum today when it was announced that the four largest national payments networks would be joining Isis. The national mobile commerce joint venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA Inc. will get a significant boost with the help and support of Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc., American Express Co. and Discover Financial Services.

The new partners come on board two and a half months after Isis abandoned plans to build a proprietary payment network with Discover and Barclays Plc and repositioned the venture to become more of an open mobile wallet initiative. When Isis was formally introduced eight months ago the mobile commerce network was expected to be the venture’s core offering, but it always had plans to create a mobile wallet as well. Isis CEO Michael Abbott has framed the shift as an acceleration of the company’s long-range plans, but it’s unclear how the parallel tracks of proprietary technology and open solutions would converge, if ever.

While Visa has plans for its own global digital wallet initiative to launch this fall, something it backed up recently with the acquisitions of Fundamo Ltd. and Monitise Plc, the company has said it wants to play in as many ecosystems as possible, particularly those that are most likely to attract its customers.

“We’ve always been saying we support an open wallet strategy,” Bill Gajda, head of global mobile product at Visa, told RCR Wireless News. Visa only now joined the initiative, instead of earlier, because it saw no role for itself under the more closed approach that Isis originally ventured down, he added.

While Visa and others are heading down multiple tracks to pursue growth in mobile finance, there is an important role for the carriers to play as well.

Carriers can help encourage customers to upgrade to NFC-enabled devices and they typically maintain control over the SIM card, Gajda said.

“The most hardened environment we have is the SIM and that is in the domain of the operators,” he added.

Indeed, payments networks, carriers and retailers will have to find the right balance to achieve a sensible level of security without hindering the simplicity or widespread adoption of mobile commerce.

“We fully support an open commerce ecosystem which will drive the scale necessary for widespread adoption of mobile payments, providing consumers with exciting new possibilities for shopping and saving,” MasterCard president and CEO Ajay Banga said in a prepared statement.

“Discover has been working with Isis from the start to facilitate mobile commerce, which will provide added convenience and benefits to consumers while delivering increased loyalty and sales to merchants,” added David W. Nelms, chairman and CEO for Discover.

And finally, Bill Glenn, president of global merchant services at American Express, added: “This relationship is another way for American Express to expand the digital experience in the social marketplace. As the line between online and offline continues to blur, American Express is leveraging our digital closed loop to help connect our merchant network with our card members in any environment.”

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