Vodafone UK has quietly launched its NFC-powered SmartPass wallet, allowing UK customers to make payments with smartphones.
The operator has been rolling out the service across Europe since it first went live in Spain in late 2013. It is also present in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Customers top up their account with a credit or debit card and make payments of up to £20 (€25.60) anywhere that accepts contactless payments.
The announcement was slipped into Vodafone’s half-year financial results, which were announced yesterday.
According to figures from the UK Cards Association, there are almost 200,000 bank-owned terminals across the country. Customers can also use the payments service to travel on the London Underground.
For customers who do not have an NFC enabled device, Vodafone will supply them with a tag that they can stick to the back of their smartphone, allowing them to make payments.
Vodafone is the second operator in the UK to launch its contactless service after EE went live with its Cash on Tap proposition during the summer last year.
O2 has had less luck with its own mobile payments service, axing O2 Money in March this year after reported poor take-up.
While Vodafone has not widely publicised the launch of SmartPass, more activity is expected in the months ahead.
However, operators’ activity in the payments space is seen as being increasingly under threat from the rise of HCE and Apple’s entry into the market.
HCE stores payment details in the cloud, rather than the secure element of the SIM, taking ownership of payments away from the operator.
On the latest versions of the iPhone, the secure element is on the smartphone itself, rather than the SIM card.
A recent report by Juniper Research said the development of HCE and Apple’s entry will lead to 516 million users of contactless payments on a smartphone by 2020, up from 101 million this year.