Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT& T’s mobile and business solutions group, kept things straight to the point while discussing the company’s lack of success in the mobile payment sector in an interview with Forbes Tuesday (June 2).
“In the end, we thought we’re probably better off not investing more money in this space,” de la Vega said.
Considering that Softcard, the smartphone wallet created by AT& T in conjunction with Verizon and T-Mobile, faced numerous roadblocks before officially shutting down in March, de la Vega’s statement comes as no surprise.
Initially the carriers sought to “energize” the mobile payments business by ensuring the adoption of NFC technology, Forbes reported. But years of delays and challenges, coupled with the realization that Apple Pay quickly made the move to embrace NFC technology, saw the carriers jumping ship on Softcard.
“It seems like a more natural fit for the OS manufacturer doing those kinds of things. We decided to focus on another part of the business and not continue on the mobile payments area,” de la Vega said.
Although AT& T’s future role in payments remains unclear, de la Vega was very vocal about Google’s recent wireless market expansion with Google Fi. The search engine giant’s new venture into the heavily competitive wireless carrier environment will enable customers to pay only for the data they use on a monthly basis.
“It isn’t obvious to us whether this is a noble attempt to have the market do something different or whether they really want to make an investment and have that be one of their core businesses,” de la Vega said. “That’s yet to be seen.”
One thing is certain, AT& T has no plans to underestimate Google’s potential.
“We are very respectful of what Google does,” de la Vega said. “They have some very innovative ideas. Whether this concept will have scale, it has yet to be seen. We are going to watch what they’re doing and see how customers react to it.”