UK wireless operator O2 has launched its long-awaited mobile wallet under an interim e-money license from IDT Financial Services.
The O2 wallet functionality includes P2P payments, barcode searches for online price comparison shopping, daily discounts from major retailers (including Debenhams, Comet, Sainsbury's Direct, and Tesco Direct), debit card and cash onboarding, and a Visa pre-paid card for online and high street shopping.
Additional functionality will soon enable consumers to use O2 Wallet to top-up mobile airtime, buy train tickets and make mobile contactless payments via NFC technology, says James Le Brocq, managing director at O2 Money.
"O2 Wallet delivers the benefits of mobile money to more UK consumers than any other product or service currently available," he says. "With O2 Wallet, it's easier to transfer money, track expenditure and pay swiftly and securely, all using your mobile. We believe it will transform the way people manage their finances and spend money."
The Telefónica subsidiary set up a personal finance unit in 2009 and partnered high street bank NatWest to launch Visa pre-paid cards, before shutting down the venture in November last year in anticipation of the full-scale wallet launch.
Initially slated for introduction late last year, the launch-date was delayed as O2 worked with 250 inhouse staff and host of specialist technology suppliers - including Wave Crest, FIS, Intelligent Environments, Giesecke & Devrient, Cogenta, and Visa - to fine-tune the finished product ahead of its full commercial release.
The mobile operator has had an application for an e-money license lodged with the Financial Services Authority since November, and has partnered with Gibraltar-based IDT Financial pending authorisation from the FSA.
A new YouGov survey of 23000 UK adults commissioned by O2 partner Intelligent Environments indicates that the latent appetite for mobile payments in the UK is strong, with 29% of British handset owners expressing a preference for mobile payments over cash or cards for purchases under £20. The figure rises to 41% amongst 18-24 year olds.