Visa Europe partners with Telefónica on mobile money, as latter targets HTML5 Firefox OS

9 July 2012

The jockeying for position in the mobile money market continues apace with Visa Europe and Telefónica Digital announcing a strategic partnership that will see each co-invest in a range of mobile wallet offerings, Near Field Communication (NFC) contactless payments, and merchant offerings and acquirer services at the mobile Point-of-Sale (PoS). The telco also announced plans to launch a HTML5-focused Firefox operating system (OS) in Brazil in Q1 2013 at its London press day.

The Europe-wide strategic alliance between Telefónica Digital and Visa Europe follows on from earlier rival deals, many of which were unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress show, such as Visa’s link-up with Vodafone, Orange’s rival partnerships, and Telefónica’s own Wanda NFC payments and prepaid m-wallet joint venture with MasterCard in Latin America, especially targeting the growing Brazilian market.

This latest instance of jockeying for position makes Visa Europe Telefónica's preferred partner in the region for the issuance of branded payments cards and the development of related mobile payment services in the European markets, where legacy systems are already well established and moving cards on to mobiles and NFC schemes may consequently take some time.

Commenting on the deal Joaquin Mata, director of financial services at Telefónica Digital, said: "This market has enormous untapped potential and through this partnership with Visa Europe we aim to unlock significant new business opportunities."

Speaking at Telefónica Digital’s press day in London on Friday 6 July, Mata also stressed the Mobile Network Operator’s (MNO) serious plans for the Wanda jv with rival card scheme, MasterCard, and the expanding Latin American market, with the m-wallet launched in Argentina in April to be followed by similar launches in Peru and Mexico in Q3 this year, he said, and Colombia and Brazil in Q4.

Telefónica Digital also unveiled its Direct Bill partnership with Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Research In Motion, allowing users to pay for content through their mobile phone bills.

HTML5 and Firefox OS
Telefónica Digital reiterated its plans in London to support the developing Mozilla HTML5 platform, which it recently confirmed will be called the Firefox OS. The MNO is supporting this operating system on its mobile phones, instead of just continuing to offer the same Google Android or Apple iOS which locks in the company, as part of its drive to be more than just a traditional telco. According to the chief executive, Matthew Key speaking in London on 6 July, Telefónica Digital is “talking to three to four handset manufacturers” about adding this platform to its packages and has “been working on this project for 18 months”.

Mozilla has already announced two handset manufacturers for its rival mobile OS, but the problem with the HTML5-focused platform is where users are going to download and get their apps from without the same kind of support structure and online markets as competitors. Even given the advantages of HTML5, as an open platform where Adobe will work unlike on your Apple, the difficulties of Mozilla disseminating its platform will be considerable.

Key is confident, however, asserting that the first Firefox OS equipped handset on Telefónica Digital will be available in Brazil in the first quarter of 2013 for under $100. “It’ll be cheaper than Android and we think it’ll be better,” he said.

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