The Mobile Phone Payment Race: Sprint Chases NFC Technology to Beat Competition, Verizon, AT&T;

Rumors of the coming of mobile phone payments are on the rise in many technology circles. These announcements come as Near Field Communications (NFC) technology grows increasingly popular amongst wireless carriers, like Verizon, Sprint, and AT T.;
In fact, an NFC forum was recently held in late March 2011. Attendees at the forum included search engine tycoon, Google, online internet retailer, Amazon, and various other mobile phone providers.

NFC technology is a short range communications technology that consists of a tag placed in a mobile phone and an external reader, which reads information from the mobile phone’s tag, such as RFID technology, or technology used to scan bar codes. If NFC technology becomes acceptable as a standard of payment, consumers will no longer have to rely solely on credit cards or cash to make payments.

Alternatively, consumers will be able to hold their mobile phones up to an electronic reader to make payments. This touch-and-go system is said to reduce the time for customer check-out transactions, boarding transportation, and ordering concert tickets by eliminating the need for paper prints.

Since the competition is fierce in the mobile phone arena, wireless carriers are competing to the first carrier to offer mobile payment technology, especially after studying the success of Starbucks’ mobile payment app for Blackberry and iPhones. Sources suggest that Sprint plans to be the first wireless carrier to release a mobile phone payment system by late 2011.

Sprint has said it is working on NFC handsets and payment networks, so users may utilize tap-and-go technology to make payments at over $150,000 locations where merchants support NFC technology. The main obstacle facing Sprint is that numerous merchants have not yet caught up to the NFC trend, and it make take some time for them to make the advancement due to the costs to implement NFC technology.

Not far behind Sprint in NFC development is Isis, a company created by Verizon, AT T;, and T-Mobile, which is set to launch mobile payments in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2012 on the Salt Lake City transit system. Using NFC technology, Isis intends for Utah transit riders to pay their fares with their mobile phones.

Like Sprint, Isis faces challenged in merchant acceptance of NFC technology, since consumers will not have the need to purchase mobile devices with NFC, unless merchants have the technology to support them. However, the lack of merchants adopting NFC technology may change quickly, if both Google and Amazon create systems that enable NFC.

Industry analysts also suggest that there may be a faster wave toward the adoption of NFC technology, because credit card companies, such as American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, have already established mobile payment apps connected to users’ bank accounts, so users can more freely manage their money on the go. These “mobile wallets” are said to be a growing trend in consumer transactions.

Although NFC technology will certainly simplify business transactions, the technology still presents a greater need for information security, since personal credit information may be easier to steal with scanning. Thus, the popularity of Sprint’s NFC-based mobile phones depends on more than being first.


Greg Bensinger. “Sprint Plans Tap-And-Go Payments in 2011, Ahead of Rivals,”

Jane McEntegart. “Amazon Exploring NFC Payments System, “

Peter Pachal. “Isis Plans 2012 Launch of Mobile Payment System in Salt Lake City, ”

Tom Zind. “Analysts: Starbucks’ Bar Code Embrace Unlikely to Slow NFC,” NFC

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