UK’s Oscar Gets a Green Light from Europe
Another day, another interesting development in the mobile payments space. It was announced today that the European Commission “unconditionally approved” “Project Oscar”, a joint initiative between the leading UK telco operators to bring mobile payments to the UK. Earlier this year, the EC decided to investigate the venture’s plans citing competitive concerns.
It’s clearly a welcome news to the operators. However, now that they are free to proceed, it will be interesting to watch what will actually emerge as a result. One of the key questions is how the individual efforts of each operator will fit with the JV plans. While the EC was probing Oscar, each MNO participating in the JV struck individual partnership deals with payment schemes (e.g. Vodafone and Telefonica (O2) with Visa and EverythingEverywhere with MasterCard) and some have launched their own wallets (e.g. O2 Wallet). Are we to expect another mobile wallet similar to Isis, this time from Oscar? Or will the JV focus its attention first on developing adjacent commerce services rather than payments – for example, targetting merchants with a proposition to bring their offers and coupons to a wide consumer audience? And what does that mean for the UK banks?
As the experience elsewhere shows, collaboration is not easy. The Dutch version of a bank-telco consortium known as Sixpack has disbanded earlier this year. And the launch of Isis in the US has been delayed, although it is now expected to be launched this month. Lets hope Project Oscar has a recipe for success.