Vodafone To Launch Mobile Wallet Service Next Year; Inks Deals With M-Commerce Company, CorFire, Digital Security Firm Gemalto

Yet another mobile wallet is lining up to replace your leather-wrapped bundle of plastic: Vodafone Group, which owns and operates the Vodafone mobile carrier brands, is partnering with m-commerce company CorFire to bring NFC-powered mobile wallet capabilities to its smartphone users next year. In a release put out by CorFire today, it said it would be “providing mobile wallet capabilities to Vodafone Group, enabling Vodafone’s customers to use their smartphones to conduct a number of transactions, including paying for goods and services at the point of sale, during 2013”.

CorFire confirmed to TechCrunch that the initial focus for the Vodafone rollout will be NFC enabled Android devices. It added: “CorFire, through its CorPay solution, is helping Vodafone create a virtual mobile wallet which will eventually allow consumers to move their physical wallets – everything from credit and debit cards to membership and travel cards – into their smartphones.

“The solution will enable Vodafone’s customers to simply tap their smartphones to execute various transactions from paying at the point of sale to redeeming coupons to accessing transit systems.”

According to Bloomberg, which obtained a statement from CorFire, the service will launch in Q1 next year in Germany and Spain, before rolling out to other European countries.

“Vodafone’s customer base spans across more than 30 countries, which means our partnership may become one of the biggest, global implementations of NFC and mobile commerce,” said Dr. Jae Chung, CorFire’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We applaud Vodafone’s efforts to make mobile commerce a reality in markets which are increasingly relying on smartphones to conduct regular daily activities. As a result of this collaboration, we will bring tangible benefits to consumers and pave the way for financial institutions, transit authorities, merchants, and enterprises to leverage the mobile channel to expand their customer reach.”

CorFire — which is the mobile commerce brand of SK C&C USA (a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korean IT provider SK C&C) describes its m-commerce tech business as follows

CorFire offers mobile technology platforms to financial institutions,mobile network operators (MNOs), payment processors, card issuers, retailers, and other technology innovators that enable delivery of mobile commerce to the mobile phone today.  Its three core technology offerings include its Trusted Services Manager (TSM) platform,a robust mobile wallet platform, and a state-of-the-art suite of mobile marketing platform.

The company says it can work in both NFC and non-NFC environments, and can “leverage the Secure Element if present to encrypt and store personal account information”. Its technology also utilizes “a full client/server architecture that allows the support of scenarios such as phone change and SIM switching”.

It lists the following as features of its CorPay mobile wallet service

  • Supports all major payment brands, including closed-loop/open-loop gift cards, credit, debit, prepaid, and companion payment cards
  • Easy integration with other service providers to expand mobile transaction offerings
  • Ready-for market, out-of-the-box functionalities ready for quick implementation
  • Skinnable for custom look and feel for client branding
  • Location-based services
  • Mobile Wallet Management (installation, upgrade, lock/unlock, removal, change-of-handset management)
  • Supports various types of Secure Element (SE): personal account information will be encrypted and stored into the SE included in USIM, SD card, and embedded in device
  • Strong security capabilities and functions
  • Notifications functionality
  • Business reporting capabilities
  • Supports Android, iPhone, and Blackberry
  • Seamless integration with Cor360 (CorFire mobile marketing services including gifting, offers, and loyalty) as add-on services to optimize mobile wallet capabilities and values
  • Easy-to-use and intuitive consumer experience

In a separate release put out today, digital security company Gemalto also said it had been selected by Vodafone — to “provide and operate its global Trusted Service Management (TSM) platform and deploy NFC services solutions” for use in a “global NFC service”.

Gemalto added

This multi-year global contract will provide the foundation for secure and convenient ‘wave and pay’ contactless transactions via mobile phone, as well as for numerous new services that demand the highest levels of security and integrity. Key elements of the end-to-end solution that is being integrated by Gemalto include the Allynis TSM service platform (a complete solution that ensures mobile payment end-to-end security encryption between financial institutions and mobile operators) and the company’s UpTeq NFC high-end card product.

As the turnkey supplier and systems integrator for Vodafone’s ambitious international project, Gemalto will provide for the launch of a range of innovative services that can address hundreds of millions of subscribers, located in all the countries where Vodafone Group operates. To support this program, Gemalto’s solution will allow both Vodafone subsidiaries and third party service providers such as banks, transport operators and retailers to seamlessly plug into a secure and reliable NFC ecosystem.

At the time of writing, Vodafone had not responded to requests to confirm details of its plans for forthcoming NFC services. (Update: A Vodafone spokesman said that any service offering launched based on CorPay’s technology “will be compatible with the standards chosen by Weve”, the joint venture between OrangeDeutsche TelekomVodafone and Telefonica’s O2 that’s working to create a common mobile payments platform — formerly Weve was known as Project Oscar.)

But Christian Wirtz, Vodafone Group’s mCommerce Director, is quoted in a supporting statement by both CorFire and Gemalto saying: “We are committed to partnering with the best suppliers to offer customers the speed, simplicity and convenience of managing everyday transactions with a single wave or tap of their smartphones. The consumer benefits of contactless payments are obvious and the industry in Europe is now at the beginning of rolling out a contactless infrastructure. The potential of mobile to transform existing industries – such as financial services, retail and transport- is enormous.”

Update: A Vodafone spokesman told TechCrunch Visa will be the issuer for a pre-pay style card it will launch in the forthcoming wallet — Vodafone and Visa announced an m-commerce partnership back in February — but added that the wallet will be opened up to allow third parties to offer cards, such as banks and transport companies. The spokesman noted that Vodafone has previously said its major European markets will be the initial target for any NFC rollout — namely Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Spain.