Bloomberg reported today that AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA plan to invest more than $100 million in a joint venture mobile payment project.
"The investment sets up a showdown between the venture, known as Isis, and rivals like a mobile-payment service from Google Inc.," wrote Bloomberg's Olga Kharif. "The amount of funding depends on how successful Isis is at attracting banks and merchants, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the financing is private."
At the end of May, Google announced its NFC-based Google Wallet service, backed by a number of retail and financial partners.
You may be wondering why the remaining "Big Four" U.S. carrier, Sprint, was not involved in this deal. That's because Sprint already partnered with Google Wallet, as well as with American Express on its own mobile payment platform, called Serve.
"The idea behind Isis, Google Wallets, and other mobile payment offerings is that consumers will be able to load several credit cards into their digital wallets on their mobile phones," wrote Marguerite Reardon of CNET News. "They'll also be able to use coupons and merchant loyalty cards via their phones."
Isis isn't expected to launch commercially until 2012, Reardon adds. But Google will likely be releasing Google Wallet in the next few weeks on the Google Nexus S device, which will be available through Sprint.
Meanwhile, Visa is reportedly planning to launch a mobile payment option of its own, to compete with Google Wallet, Isis and Serve -- even though Visa has previously stated it would participate in Isis (so did MasterCard, Discover and American Express).
Confused yet? So am I. Carriers and credit card companies alike seem to be hedging their bets in the mobile payment space, making agreements on various fronts.
The question remains: Whose service will gain mainstream acceptance first?
The race is on.