A Big Blow To MNO-Led Payments in UK

Weve was set up as a mobile marketing and wallet joint venture between EE, Vodafone and O2 in the UK. O2 recently bought EE and Vodafone’s stake in Weve and is now its sole owner. As a m-commerce firm, Weve had been making attempts at dwelling into mobile payments. Weve had also partnered with MasterCard last year to drive the adoption of contactless technology in the UK. One of the main reasons behind the joint venture was to also leverage subscriber data for potential advertising opportunities.

Weve had apparently shut down its wallet services back in September last year since the three operators were not reaching in for a mobile payments initiative. EE and Vodafone already have their own mobile payment systems in UK. The difference in opinion among the three operators might have been a key reason behind the joint venture breaking up. Weve will now operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of O2 and will work on the subscriber data pertaining to O2 which includes 6 million users from Priority Moments scheme and 14 million from O2 Wifi.

It seems that Weve will now work only towards advertising aspects. Those who opt-in for Weve’s service can receive location-based SMSs for special offers. Also, O2 itself is poised to be acquired by the Hutchison Whampoa group which owns the operator 3 UK. 3 UK was earlier excluded from being part of the Weve joint venture. With the acquisition of O2 later this year, O2 and 3 UK are the verge of a merger.

This recent use case of Weve again highlights the lack of capability of mobile operators in sustaining mobile payment solutions in the market. Take the case of Softcard, the mobile payments joint venture by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, the top three operators in the US; Softcard was acquired by the technology giant Google. Google made the acquisition to further its own mobile payment system Google Wallet.

It now seems that operators are not able to match the power of these big players. Considering the UK itself, Google has launched a peer-to-peer payment system, and Apple Pay is also poised to enter the market. Another reason behind the breakage of the Weve joint venture could be the threat from the payment systems of these technology giants.