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8/3/2010
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AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile Developing Mobile Payment Platform

Discover Financial Services and Barclays are also contributing to the effort to launch a mobile payment system that could eventually compete with Mastercard and Visa.

Virtually all mobile phone carriers along with banks and credit card companies agree that mobile payments are a fine idea, but myriad attempts to make mobile payments a reality in the U.S. haven't produced much traction so far. That may change soon with word that mobile phone powerhouses AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are hoping to launch a mobile payments platform.

The effort, which would also include Discover Financial Services and Barclays plc in the platform, would be launched in trials in a handful of U.S. cities, according to media reports. If successful, the platform would compete directly with Mastercard and Visa, which currently dominate the credit card universe.

Discover already has a head start through its past work in which it launched a mobile website that enables users to make payments, view transactions and access other features including rewards activity.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "everybody talks about mobile payments, but nobody does anything about them". The AT&T-T-Mobile-Verizon Wireless-Discover-Barclays collaboration could change all that if their cooperative effort gets wheeling. Their venture was reported this week by Bloomberg News.

AT&T and Verizon would have leadership roles in the venture, according to the reports. A system is planned for testing in Atlanta. In its early stages, the platform is envisioned to be similar to systems already functioning in Japan and the U.K. A small radio chip on a mobile phone could be waved by consumers to record items; the transactions would be recorded when the purchaser commits to buying or renting an item.

A successful mobile payments platform would likely represent a direct challenge to MasterCard and Visa networks, which currently dominate the credit card payments universe in the U.S.

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