O2: Oyster cards in mobiles ready to roll

O2 gets ready to put all its eggs in one phone
O2 gets ready to put all its eggs in one phone

O2 has told reporters it is confident consumers will see 'substantial progress' in bringing a mobile phone able to make contactless payments in the very near future.

Ronan Dunne, O2's UK Chief Executive, said O2's move into the financial space with O2 Money was the "first step" on the journey towards a contactless future.

"As you know O2 led trials [of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in mobile phones] last year, and we engaged with a number of commercial organisations in that area," said Dunne.

"Customers loved it, and the challenges now are with electronic point of sale capability, and deployment across mass retail.

"We'll be talking to large retailers, grocers for instance, also people in the transport industry [about bringing the technology to market]."

O2 used around 500 people in the trial, which saw them using their mobile phone to make smaller payments, similar to Visa's Paywave system, and swapping an Oyster card for a phone in London too.

Not a foregone conclusion

However, Dunne pointed out while NFC might be coming to fruition, the next stage of deployment is far from a foregone conclusion:

"It's one of those situations where the technology is ready to go, but we need more deployment to get critical mass. We're confident you'll see substantial progress in that space, under the O2 brand, in the not too distant future.

"I think the wholly held industry view is that NFC has proven capability; we're just waiting for mass deployment of terminals and other key components.

"For instance, we first saw contactless technology is things like the Oyster card, which was originally deployed just in central London but now rolled out to the suburbs, which is the sort of thing that happens when you get critical mass.


"Every major manufacturer has contactless technology on their roadmap, so it's not a case of if but when. Understandably, it will increase the cost of the handset and there isn't the mass deployment of terminals at the moment, so we're in a little bit of a 'chicken and egg' situation.

"But everyone is getting ready to go, and we need one or two key players to enter the market. However there are conversations in the UK [to that end] that we're party to and very closely involved with.

Dunne also believed the day when you don't need anything but your mobile phone is coming soon, with the integration of travel and payments using your phone coming in the very near future:

"I think what we're giving is an unequivocal statement O2 is not just going to participate but to lead in this [contactless] space and the opportunities announced [with O2 money] show we are at first stage in that journey.

Mobile wallets

"There's no doubt mobile wallets are coming, and I think you can see strategically O2 sees mobile and money coming together in the mobile world.

"In the future, the mobile phone will be the one thing you need to take out, you won't need your keys or wallet in due course as you can swipe into your home and you'll have all your financial info on your phone. But, of course, that's a very mobile centric view of the world."

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.