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MWC Day One: Visa, ROAM, Samsung, NFC And More

Welcome to Day One of’s Mobile World Congress 2013 Recap: a comprehensive look at all the most important payments announcements and coolest stories from MWC2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

We will be live on-site for all four days of the conference and aim to bring you as many major news stories, fascinating tidbits, product reviews/demos and more from one of the industry’s biggest and most important shows.

Think we should have covered another big story? Want to share a cool product or feature you saw with us? Let me know in the comments below!

Visa Partners With ROAM, Samsung

Perhaps the biggest news of the day came from Visa and its one-two punch of an announcement outlining new partnerships with both ROAM and Samsung.

In ROAM, Visa partners with one of the leading mobile commerce companies in the world, which should help to bring Visa’s new Visa Ready platform to more merchants and acquirers. ROAM becomes Visa’s first mPayments partner for the Ready platform, and those already using ROAM swipe-and-dongle devices have access to Visa’s API too.

During a press event at MWC, Ludovi Houri, VP of mobility for ROAM’s parent company, Ingenico, emphasized the security as one reason why ROAM was excited to become a Visa partner. That was a sentiment that ROAM CEO Ken Paull also expressed in his statement made via press release.

“Security is a primary focus for us at ROAM and we fully embrace the Visa Ready Partner Program as a way to identify the differentiation of our mag stripe and EMV solutions,” Paull said.

“We are enthused to be collaborating with Visa and believe that the complementary strengths of our respective offerings will help drive the proliferation of mobile commerce acceptance throughout the world.”

Visa’s Samsung news was significant as well in that next generation Samsung smartphones – starting with the Samsung Galaxy SIV, according to the popular rumor – will come with Visa’s payWave applet already integrated into its system. It’s potentially a huge milestone for NFC adoption, as issuers will be able to use Visa’s Mobile Provision Service to put payment information on Samsung NFC devices.

MasterCard Launches MasterPass

MasterCard grabbed plenty of Day One headlines as well, launching its new MasterPass digital payments platform and strengthening its foothold in the mobile payments space. We covered the news as it broke here, and also reviewed some MasterPass demos here. We’ve been told the payments giant isn’t done yet though, so stay tuned for more MasterCard news in the coming days.

Some Candid Remarks From NFC Backers

The most interesting seminar I attended today was a titled “Building the Ecosystem for NFC Services,” which was moderated by GSMA NFC business lead Pierre Combelles and featured an impressive roundtable discussion. Ali Salci, head of mobile financial services division at Turkcell, Francois-Xavier Godron, telecom specialist, Ryan Hughes, CMO at Isis and Bill Gajda, head of mobile, product at Visa rounded out the discussion.

Each gave his take on the trials and tribulations of investing in NFC as a payments technology, but each had plenty of success stories to share as well. For example, Hughes says that since the Isis Mobile Wallet pilot launched in October in Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas, contactless payments have doubled, and contactless users are tapping to pay five times a week.

“People are ready for mobile wallets, but we need to teach them how to use them,” Hughes said.

Gajda let those attending the seminar in on Visa’s Samsung partnership about two hours before the official announcement, using such an agreement as evidence that the NFC ecosystem is indeed evolving. He emphasized, though, that the NFC business model may still need some refinement.

“If all we’re doing is replacing a swipe of a card with a tap of a phone, we’re not doing enough,” Gajda said.

Hughes closed the seminar with a statement that blended NFC realism and optimism together quite nicely, and which I think makes a great case for those who still believe in contactless as the next great payments innovation.

“NFC has been maligned a bit, because we’ve talked about it forever. The reality is the tech is there and the tech works, and that’s one thing we take for granted,” Hughes said. “But NFC is a technology that has struggled to create a business model, and what you’re hearing up here and many other places around this conference is that people are beginning to make the investment.”

Hughes added: “When does NFC begin to scale enough in order for Dell or Apple to put NFC tech into consumer devices? I’d say we haven’t given them a reason to. But once we make the investment and put tens or hundreds of millions or billion of devices with NFC into the market, you’re going to see a whole bunch of use cases that will start to pop ups.”

Firefox Makes Bid To Become Third Major OS

A new OS doesn’t mean anything for the payments industry right now but it could for the future, so we’ll mention that Mozilla announced its new Firefox OS yesterday. Seventeen major operators have already backed the platform, with names such as Deutsche Telekom, VimpelCom, Telefonica and Sprint included. That being said, one very notable omission from Firefox OS’ supporters is Samsung. The platform will first debut later this in Europe and South America, with other markets to follow. Alcatel, LG and ZTE will all help to build the first Firebrand OS devices.


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