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MasterCard Inks 5-Year NFC/Mobile Payments Deal With UK’s Everything Everywhere, Covers 27M Users

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MasterCard is once more extending its reach into mobile money services in Europe in partnership with a carrier — this time in the mobile-savvy UK market. The payment processing giant has cut a five-year deal with Everything Everywhere, the JV between France Telecom’s Orange and T-Mobile, to develop mobile payment solutions, with a “co-branded, prepaid solution for mobile devices” enabling contactless NFC payments one of the first planned out of the gate. Later, the two want to include money transfers, loyalty rewards and more.  Everything Everywhere is the UK’s largest carrier and the deal will cover 27 million subscribers.

It comes on the heels of MasterCard inking a mobile payments partnership with Deutsche Telekom covering Germany and other T-Mobile operations in Europe, as well as a deal with Turkcell in Turkey. MasterCard has also worked for the past three years with Orange on QuickTap, the first commercial NFC payment service in the UK, as well as the Orange Cash prepaid card.

It looks like that Orange Cash card will be central to how Everything Everywhere and MasterCard will work together. Orange Cash, currently a prepaid MasterCard, will become an on-device option for Everything Everywhere customers who want to use their mobiles to pay for goods. In turn, that could, for example, work with the NFC chips embedded in the handsets. (I’ve heard these carrier-branded prepaid cards described as “gateway” payment options to help people associate carriers with payments, as step one of a mobile payments solution: that’s what is being played out here.) Using an Orange Cash prepaid account also means that this service is open to any user — not just those using MasterCards already.

“By moving our existing co-branded card offers onto mobile devices, we are closer to a world where our customers will be able to use their phone to pay for travel to work, pay for small purchases and take advantage of loyalty rewards from their favourite retail outlets,” Gerry McQuade, CMO at Everything Everywhere, said in a statement.

NFC is only one of the services the two say they will develop together using their combined technology and payment-processing know-how: also included will be person-to-person money transfers, loyalty and rewards services and digital payment services: in effect, the two are laying out their ambitions to be at the center of the holy grail of mobile payments: a fluid, secure and easy-to-use payment system that works with whatever it is that you are doing, whether it’s buying digital content through your device, paying a person or a bill, or picking up your groceries at the shop.

As with companies like Square, iZettle and PayPal, MasterCard and Everything Everywhere are also planning to develop services that are aimed at small businesses to accept payments using their mobile devices. “More details to be announced later this year,” the companies say in their statement.

“MasterCard’s vision is of a world beyond cash, where consumers and small businesses alike can benefit from simple payments using smart technology,” said Marion King, President of MasterCard UK & Ireland, in a statement.

MasterCard will provide the network for the financial transaction, while Everything Everywhere will provide the network delivering other kinds of non-transactional, secure information to users: records of payments and so on.  It isn’t specified in the release whether EE will be using NFC-enabled SIM cards similar to those that its part-owner, France Telecom, is rolling out in France.

Everything Everywhere has been trying to carve out a reputation for itself as a first-mover in the UK market: the company recently pulled off a big coup by getting the UK regulator Ofcom to agree to let it launch 4G/LTE services using existing spectrum — potentially many months ahead of its competitors.

This announcement could see the carrier stealing a march on the likes of Vodafone and O2 once again. (Although it should be pointed out Vodafone works with Visa, and O2 appears to also be overhauling its O2 Money card, perhaps also as an on-mobile payment service? And there is also that mobile payments JV between the three operators, although that is still working its way through regulatory hurdles and may in any case allow each to develop independent services that will interoperate together.)

MasterCard and Everything Everywhere note that this co-branded prepaid solution using NFC will be “one of the first products to launch through the partnership”. If they pull it off, and if people really do use the service, it could prove to be the first wide-scale mobile NFC solution in the UK.

MasterCard notes that there are already 100,000 retailers equipped to take contactless payments already in the UK. Last year, between the UK and France, Orange says it sold some 500,000 NFC-equipped devices: that number is likely to be significantly higher this year as the number of NFC-equipped handsets has grown, as have the number of people using smartphones.