With interest in mobile payments growing, First Data Corp. and South Korea-based SK C&C Co. Ltd. reportedly plan to collaborate to enable consumers in the United States, Canada and Mexico to use their mobile phones in place of physical wallets to initiate payment.

A First Data representative declined to comment on the partnership by PaymentsSource deadline but says a company announcement would be released soon.

SK C&C, a technology-service affiliate of the South Korean-based SK Group, would provide the trusted service manager and e-wallet services, and First Data Corp. would provide marketing and sales support, according to The Korean Times. The trusted service manager works behind the scenes to make the entire process of downloading a payment account to a mobile phone both efficient and secure.

E-wallets enable consumers to pay for purchases with their mobile phones instead of using plastic credit or debit cards. Using a mobile phone as a payment device could help eliminate the need to carry excess cash and a physical wallet.

Through the partnership, First Data is positioning itself to be ready when mobile payments take off in the U.S., Gwenn Bézard, research director at Boston-based Aite Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource.

“It makes sense for the company to partner with SK C&C because Korea is definitely ahead in the mobile-payments space,” Bézard says.

Because the demand for mobile payments from banks is not very high, First Data is looking ahead so it can have the service up and running when banks are ready, Bézard surmises.

And if the adoption of mobile payments does take off as early as next year, First Data will be ready from both the technology and relationship standpoint because it already has established relationships with many merchants and processors, Bézard notes

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