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The telecommunications companies that own the Isis mobile-payments joint venture have apparently given up on the idea of creating their own merchant network and instead are redirecting their efforts on a mobile wallet, according to a published report. If confirmed, the Isis move means that the existing payment card networks and not upstarts will command the dominant positions as mobile payments move haltingly from the drawing board and tests and into the payments mainstream in the next few years.

“If the reporting is accurate then what they’re doing is moving from a network that competes with Visa, MasterCard and others to a wallet system that works with multiple networks,” says payments consultant Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group.

Exactly what Isis’s mobile wallet will do, and how the carriers will make money from it, is unclear. Ablowitz, who earlier noted that merchants weren’t too keen on Isis’s initial pricing plans, says Isis might be able to attract merchants with electronic coupons that build business. “If they’re trying to value-add with coupons, at least they can make the argument that they’re not adding to retailer costs.”

Digital Transactions, May 4, 2011