Rumor Mill: Sprint launching NFC-based mobile wallet to battle Isis

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Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is reportedly planning to launch its own Near Field Communications-based mobile wallet as soon as this summer, calling into question the operator's continuing support for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Wallet.

Sources told NFC Times that the Sprint wallet, named Touch, will support both NFC-based contactless payments as well as cloud-based commerce applications. The carrier is building the wallet in collaboration with NFC technology firm Sequent Software; sources add Sprint is in the process of signing up banks and other partners and also will open the Touch application programming interface to developers to encourage the creation of payment-related apps.

Sprint currently supports the Google Wallet tap-and-pay service across a handful of smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper 4G Elite and LG Optimus Elite. During February's Mobile World Congress 2012 event, Google Vice President of Wallet and Payments Osama Bedier said Sprint will introduce "at least 10 additional phones" with support for the service this year. NFC Times states it is unclear whether Sprint would support Touch and Google Wallet, although it appears unlikely the carrier could support both services on the same handsets given that each wallet requires control of the secure element.

In a statement, Sprint said it is "proud to be the first carrier to deliver Google Wallet" but added "In keeping with our open approach, Sprint is actively working with others in the mobile payment ecosystem. We will continue to bring practical, easy-to-use mobile payment solutions to customers on Sprint devices, however, we do not have any news to share at this time."

Sprint already offers a mobile wallet without NFC that enables subscribers to buy physical and digital products directly from their phones by entering a universal PIN code and billing purchases to their existing Visa, MasterCard and Amazon Payments account. The carrier also supports on-device transaction services from Boku and BilltoMobile, and in March partnered with payments processing firm PreCash to develop a mobile wallet application optimized for the Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA prepaid subsidiaries, enabling no-contract customers to make utility bill payments and related transactions via mobile device.

A Sprint source called the Touch wallet a "legitimate alternative to Isis," the forthcoming nationwide m-commerce network spearheaded by Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA. Isis plans to test its NFC-based transaction platform in the Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas regions later this summer; in addition to mobile payments, the platform will enable consumers to redeem coupons and present loyalty program credentials via smartphone. Financial services providers Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have committed to supporting the Isis initiative.

"There is a big difference in the way Isis is thinking of doing this and how Sprint is thinking of doing it," an industry source with deep knowledge of Isis told NFC Times. "Sprint has a pretty robust developer ecosystem that the [Isis partners] don't have. I don't know for sure, but they [probably] will leverage that developer ecosystem to have a more open use of NFC in phones, as compared with Isis, which is not open by any means."

The NFC Times report adds that Google is revamping its own Wallet strategy, shifting the platform's emphasis from NFC to cloud-based services. The transition follows Google's April 2012 acquisition of payments processing firm TxVia, whose platform encompasses consumer, corporate and government payment services, including hosting and management, with support for more than 100 million accounts worldwide. TxVia partners include prepaid card companies, rewards card vendors and ATM network systems. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

For more:
- read this NFC Times article

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