AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless today announced they will build Isis, a nationwide mobile electronic commerce network that the partners anticipate will eliminate the need for consumers to carry and use debit cards, credit cards, transportation cards and coupons, much less cold, hard cash. Initial market introduction is expected “in key geographic markets during the next 18 months,” according to a press release.

“Our mobile commerce network, through relationships with merchants, will provide an enhanced, more convenient, more personalized shopping experience for consumers,” said Michael Abbott, the former GE Capital executive and payments and technology specialist who has been named CEO of the ISIS joint venture. “While mobile payments will be at the core of our offering, it is only the start. We plan to create a mobile wallet that ultimately eliminates the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes.”

Near-field communications technology that uses short-range, high-frequency signals and encrypted for security will be used to make contactless electronic payments. Strong security and privacy safeguards will be designed and built into the system, the companies say.

The three wireless service providers will have to contend with and overcome resistance, as well as competition, from a well-entrenched payments card industry. To that end, they are partnering with Discover Financial Services and Barclays PLC. The Isis group will work with Discover to develop the “extensive” mobile payment infrastructure Isis requires. Barclaycard US is expected to be the mobile payment network’s first issuer by “offering multiple mobile payment products to meet the needs of every customer.”

Together the three wireless telecoms companies provide mobile services to some 200 million customers, all of whom will have access to the Isis service. Discover cards are accepted at more than 7 million merchant outlets across the country. “We believe the venture will have the scope and scale necessary to introduce mobile commerce on a broad basis. In the beginning, we intend to fully utilize Discover’s national payment infrastructure as well as Barclaycard’s expertise in contactless and mobile payments,” Abbott was quoted as saying. “Moving forward, Isis will be available to all interested merchants, banks and mobile carriers.”

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