BlackBerry sees mobile payments as a path to revival

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The mobile payments market is set to take off, with Gartner forecasting market growth of more than 30 percent per year through 2017, and BlackBerry is betting that it holds a key to the company's revival.

BlackBerry inked a deal this week with EnStream, a mobile payments joint venture owned by Canadian wireless carriers Bell, Rogers and TELUS, to provide a secure mobile payments management platform for a number of Canadian banks and their customers, BlackBerry explained in a release Thursday.

BlackBerry and Enstream will offer banks and mobile operators the ability to securely provision sensitive payment card credentials on smartphones equipped with near field communications (NFC) technology.

Some banks that have expressed interested so far are Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank Group, CIBC and Desjardins.

"BlackBerry has proven through our decades of experience in enterprise mobility that we have the ideal infrastructure and security capabilities to protect users' data when new capabilities such as mobile payments emerge," says John Sims, president of BlackBerry's Global Enterprise Services.

BlackBerry faces some stiff competition in the mobile payments space. Just last week, Apple announced that it was opening its fingerprint-based Touch ID system on iOS 8 to third-party app developers, a move seen as a way to provide security to mobile wallets on iOS devices, among other uses. In addition, Apple has reportedly been interviewing candidates for mobile payments jobs.

Credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard, along with tech firms Google and PayPal have already launched mobile payment initiatives. And fast food restaurants such as Burger King and Wendy's, along with Starbucks, have recently launched mobile payment apps.

In the U.K., the major banks launched in late April the mobile payments system Paym, which enables people to send and receive payments to a current banking account using a mobile phone number.

Major U.S. and European retailers are also making a grab for a slice of the mobile payments pie. For example, Walmart, Target and Best Buy have joined together to develop the Merchant Customer Exchange, which unveiled a cloud-based mobile wallet last year that supports barcode-enabled transactions.

In addition, U.S. wireless operators formed the Isis Mobile Wallet, which deployed nationwide last fall after years of regional testing. Isis Mobile Wallet enables consumers to make purchases using an NFC-enabled smartphone, a SIM card and a free app from Google Play, as well as a special NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminal.

So competition in the mobile payments market is stiff. It remains to be seen whether BlackBerry can make significant inroads outside of Canada.

For more:
- check out the BlackBerry release
- see the Gartner market estimate

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