Big telcos aim to replace credit cards with smartphones

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile join forces for Isis initiative

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have joined forces to build out a mobile commercial payment network that will let customers use their smartphones as credit cards.

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have joined forces to build a mobile commercial payment network that will let customers use smartphones as credit cards.

Dubbed Isis, the proposed system will use near-field communication technology to send encrypted data from smartphones to payment processors.  The system will only be able to send payments over a short distance and the carriers say it is "being designed and built to include strong security and privacy safeguards."  The carriers expect that Isis will come online within 18 months.

 Smartphones as credit cards: Possibly dangerous, definitely inevitable

Michael Abbott, a former financial services executive with GE Capital, has been tapped as Isis' CEO.  He will work with the three wireless carriers as well as Discover Financial Services to create a national payment infrastructure for the Isis system.  Additionally, the companies are working with Barclays PLC, whose Barclaycard US is expected to be the first official issuer on the Isis network.

"We believe the venture will have the scope and scale necessary to introduce mobile commerce on a broad basis," Abbott says.  "In the beginning, we intend to fully utilize Discover's national payment infrastructure as well as Barclaycard's expertise in contactless and mobile payments."

Users who want to use their smartphones for wireless payments will likely have to start adopting practices and applications that have long been staples of the corporate market.  In addition to using encryption for payments, smartphone credit-card users are also likely going to have to install some form of remote-wipe application that will let them erase any data on their smartphone if they ever lose it. Although remote-wipe capabilities have been staples of Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices for years, they've only recently come to more popular consumer devices such as the Apple iPhone and devices based on Google's open source Android operating system.

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