NEW YORK — Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA will unveil more details on their joint venture to create a mobile payment network, which will be financially backed by Barclays PLC and Discover Financial Services, as soon as Tuesday, according to people familiar with the situation.
The joint venture will be lead by Michael Abbott, formerly chief marketing officer at General Electric Co.'s GE Capital division. Discover and Barclays will also officially announce that they are participating in the venture. A formal announcement can come any time between Tuesday and Thursday.
In Abbott, the joint venture gets a neutral executive without any baggage from the telco side, critical given the carrier's natural reluctance to work with each other.
But the rare showing of cooperation between three of the four national carriers creates a potentially large base of users for its mobile payment system. The carriers are eager to move into mobile transactions because it represents a new revenue stream and another feature that get its subscribers spending more time on their phone. Discover benefits from additional financial transactions over its credit-card network, and Barclays gets a foot in the door of the U.S. consumer market.
The telco joint venture comes as major credit card companies such as Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. are pushing their own mobile payment initiatives. In July, American Express Co. hired Dan Schulman, who was the architect of Sprint Nextel Corp.'s prepaid wireless strategy.
The divergent paths underscore the tension over who controls the mobile payment network, how the revenue is divided, and which party shoulders the financial and legal burdens.
Canada, meanwhile, has for years had a similar mobile-payments joint venture between its three main wireless carriers, which last year started a service that lets users send money to and from their phones. Unlike its U.S. cousin, though, the Canadian venture is aiming to bring services from all the country's big credit-card and financial firms to mobile phones.
Both sides, however, are embracing a technology called near-field communications, which allows a person to wave their card or phone in front of a scanner to pay for goods and services. NFC is already found in cards, and can be accepted at drug-store chains and gas stations.
Companies currently rely on NFC stickers or memory cards with an NFC chip shoved into cellphones — slowing adoption of the feature. But newer cellphones are expected to have the technology fully integrated. Research in Motion Ltd., for example, will use NFC chips in its BlackBerrys next year, according to people familiar with the company's phone rollout plans. Nokia Corp. has been experimenting with NFC technology for years.