Deutsche Telekom's Google talks give rise to NFC payment apps

Deutsche Telekom AG has been in apparent discussion with Google over the possibility of expanding its mobile payments service overseas and collaborating with Google Wallet.

This is all according to the German mobile giant’s head of innovation Thomas Kiessling, who said in an interview that Deutsche Telekom was targeting a series of credit card companies and banks alongside Google.

“We’re talking to other players in the market, and even a co-operation with Google is theoretically possible”, said Kiessling, without elaborating any further.

DT, the second largest telecoms provider in Europe, may hope to utilise the technology provided by Wallet, which allows mobile users payment by tapping their device on in-store readers.

Google Wallet, which survived a cull from the search giant of misfiring products including iGoogle and Google Video, is near-field communication (NFC) friendly. According to Bloomberg, Google is considering changing elements of Wallet after a “slow” adoption.

It’s worth noting at this stage that no formal deal has been struck up by the two companies and that Google has made no comment on the issue thus far. But, with MasterCard already aligned with Google Wallet, Deutsche Telekom could join a valued overall partnership for NFC payment apps.

Google = part two of DT’s mobile payment strategy?

This development comes days after Deutsche Telekom announced a partnership with MasterCard with regard to further synchronising mobile payments.

Presumably Kiessling’s inference that DT was targeting credit card companies related back to this MasterCard deal. In a statement Deutsche Telekom said the alliance aimed “to make mobile payments a reality for Deutsche Telekom’s 93 million mobile customers across Europe”.

The increasing prominence of NFC was highlighted in the MasterCard deal, with the fresh payment cards containing an NFC chip. The technology will later be integrated into SIM cards.

Poland will be the first country to benefit from the innovation, with consumer roll-out expected to take place there late this year.

DT commented at the time that “the fact the mobile wallet will be realised in the environment of the SIM card brings considerable benefits: not only is the payment transaction secure, but the customer has continuous and complete transparency and control”.

The growth of the payment app, but is a standard needed?

The payment app sector has clear potential to be one of the biggest growth sectors in the industry, with competition fierce for market-leading space.

Many companies are attempting to get a stranglehold, from Elavon’s alliance with payment service provider CreditCall to create what is claimed to be the first payment app to utilise Chip and PIN on Android and Blackberry, to Barclays’ successful Pingit app which utilises quick response (QR) codes.

Barclays’ Facebook tag line to Pingit was “everyone’s got a mate who owes them a few quid”, which infers payment apps are for convenience transferring small amounts of money and not for major banking. Similarly, Elavon’s app appeared to target small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who are rarely in the office.

What does all this mean? Well there are plenty of methods companies employ in enabling payments, with USPs ranging from SIM cards, to QR codes, to SD cards.

But as Kiessling himself had said: "In many areas you shouldn't wait for standardisation, because that's how the TELCOs missed a series of innovations over the past 10 years".

So with no standard in sight, does NFC have the potential to be a game-changer?

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