UK mobile operator Everything Everywhere is to commercially launch a nationwide contactless mobile payments scheme in the second-quarter of the year. The launch will be the culmination of a long-standing partnership between Orange UK (one half of the Everything Everywhere joint-venture operator) and UK credit card firm Barclaycard, which has been in place for two years. Orange described the launch – scheduled for “early summer” – as the UK’s “first commercial launch” of the technology, which allows users to pay for goods at participating merchants by waving an NFC-enabled mobile device against a contactless reader. MasterCard will provide the payment capability for the transactions. Over 40,000 UK stores will be ready to accept contactless payments at launch, the operator said, including retail outlets such as Pret a Manger, EAT, Little Chef and (soon) Co-Op.It added that there are already 11.6 million contactless credit and debit cards in circulation, of which over 10 million have been issued by Barclaycard and (parent bank) Barclays.
Orange has established itself as a leading backer of mobile payments, announcing last month that it is planning a major rollout of NFC-based contactless technology across its European footprint during 2011. However, in the UK, Orange noted that contactless payments is just one part of a wider portfolio of products developed in conjunction with Barclaycard, which also includes a co-branded credit card and the forthcoming contactless Orange Cash prepaid payment card. The announcement did not make reference to compatible handsets but many new devices, notably Google’s new Nexus S, support the technology. It is also rumoured that Apple will incorporate NFC into the new version of iPhone due this summer.