European Commission Greenlights Project Oscar

Project Oscar, the mCommerce joint venture between Vodafone, O2, and Everything Everywhere – parent company of Orange and T-Mobile – has been given the green light by the European Commission.

Project Oscar consists of a mobile wallet, which uses NFC for payments, as well as a mobile marketing element. Expected to be the first part of the project to come to market, this will give advertisers a single buying point to reach subscribers across all four of the involved mobile networks.

The project was first announced over a year ago, but has remained in a state of arrested development since, due to concerns about it giving the operators involved a monopoly in the space. Back in April, the European Commission delayed its decision so it could do an in-depth investigation into the joint venture – but it has now be given unconditional clearance to go ahead.

“Mobile commerce is a nascent sector that may radically change the consumer buying experience in the next few years,” said European Commission VP of competition policy Joaquín Almunia. “The proposed joint venture is one of several initiatives to develop the sector in Europe. The Commission is keen on promoting innovation in this area and ensuring that the markets remain open so that a number of competing solutions can emerge without undue obstacles, to the benefit of consumers.”

According to the operators, the introduction of Project Oscar could remove some of the barriers to mobile marketings growth, by creating a single channel with access to the majority of UK mobile subscribers. Or, in their own words: “The JV (joint venture) has the potential to transform the mobile marketing landscape in the UK.”

“At the heart of the JV is a desire to bring to the UK an easy and effective solution for businesses to create and for consumers to enjoy mobile marketing and wallet services,” reads a joint statement from the operators on the decision. “In mobile payments, the JV will benefit businesses and consumers by accelerating the deployment of mobile wallets and associated services in a secure way.”