The Canadian mobile payment space is confusing and disjointed. We’ve written about this many times before, from the half-measure solutions proposed by Canada’s carriers and financial institutions, to consumer unwillingness to adopt smartphone-based payment solutions.
Rogers has dipped its toe into the payment space already, releasing two products under the Suretap brand. The first is an actual payments solution, where Rogers works with financial institutions — so far, CIBC, TD, Desjardins and Scotiabank are on board — to allow certified devices with secure SIM cards to make touchless payments at NFC-based payment terminals. At the time, we noted that Rogers paid a high price for being first: it and CIBC had sunk $60 million into the project.
The second, Suretap Wallet, launched in early 2014, allows Android and BlackBerry users to purchase a prepaid MasterCard and load funds for payments at touchless retail terminals. The app also facilitates the purchase and redemption of gift cards from companies like Indigo and Cineplex.
Initially, Suretap as both a product and technology was supposed to catalyze the growth of mobile payments in Canada. The latter has allowed Rogers’ customers to make payments through their banks’ mobile apps, but the former has floundered in obscurity, with promises of a universal credit card wallet that would make it easy to make payments from any credit, debit or loyalty card.
MobileSyrup has now learned that Rogers has been working with Bell and Telus on just such a product, and is poised to release a mobile wallet solution that would be largely carrier and bank-agnostic. Rogers has reportedly struck deals with many of the Canadian banks that already have mobile payment solutions of their own. Suretap will work alongside those existing solutions rather than replace them.
This isn’t the first time the Big Three have worked together on a mobile payments solution. EnStream, which we’ve confirmed to be part of the ownership hierarchy for Suretap LP, began its life as a co-branded peer-to-peer payments service before transitioning into “end-to-end ‘hub’ solution” for mobile credit and debit cards.
Incorporated under the Suretap brand, the goal is to give Android phones a solution that would rival Apple Pay, which has kept carriers out of the certification process entirely. Apple Pay is expected to launch in Canada by November.
It is unclear whether this new version of Suretap will use the existing SIM-based secure element standard, or whether it has adopted Host Card Emulation, a relatively unknown solution that Google incorporated into Android 4.4 KitKat in 2013. Unlike SIM-based solutions, which require device-specific certifications, limiting the number of compatible Android smartphones, HCE works with the credit card facilitators, Visa and MasterCard, to securely store user credentials in the cloud. Any device running Android 4.4 or above is theoretically capable of using an HCE-powered mobile payment solution.
Suretap LP, as the company is known, operates out of Toronto, independent of Rogers. Andy Tom, Suretap’s Operations Manager, has been leading the company in stealth since September 2014, and according to our sources is gearing up to launch the mobile wallet product “imminently.” Prior to Suretap, Tom was Operations Manager for Atlanta-based Global Payments, one of the world’s largest merchant payment solution providers.
Suretap LP reportedly has around 20 employees, most of whom came from Rogers. Considering the carrier has been very bullish on mobile payments, it makes sense that we’d see a spinoff company, run more as a startup without the restrictions of a large corporation.
A Rogers representative would not comment, but said it is “committed to bringing customers a secure, seamless and open mobile payments experience.”