For payment technologies that are less secure than NFC, a merchant will incur greater liability and costs for theft, which could raise the price of products purchased in other ways than through NFC, Olebe added. That might include non-NFC payments made from a device carried in an aisle that scans a barcode or QR code using an optical scanner.
Consumers will be able to sign up for MasterPass through banks in the U.S. sometime in the spring, following the end-of-March launch in Australia and Canada, Olebe said. The U.K. will be added in the summer, followed by Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain and Sweden.
More mobile payment options at MWC
NFC will be one of many mobile topics at MWC, and MasterCard competitor Visa has scheduled an announcement for later Monday. Also, the head of product management for Google Wallet is making an appearance at MWC, even as Google has markedly toned down its presence at the annual event, which is expected to attract 75,000 visitors. Google is not sponsoring a booth this year or providing a keynote speaker. Last year, Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt spoke at the conference.
Google Wallet was first introduced in the fall of 2011 and relies on NFC in Android smartphones for mobile payments. In late 2012, Isis, a consortium of three U.S. carriers, launched NFC payments in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.
The GSM Association, representing 800 GSM carriers globally and the host of the MWC event, is also providing an NFC app that will work with Sony Xperia smartphones and 20,000 checkpoints at the new MWC venue (called the Fira Gran Via) and in some taxicabs in Barcelona. The app is based on a partnership of companies in the region that includes CaixaBank, Gemalto, Telefonica Digital and Visa Europe.
Even though mobile payments has been a major focus for NFC, some vendors promote it primarily as a data transfer technology between NFC-ready smartphones brought within about one inch of each other. Phones like Samsung's Galaxy S III use Android Beam software to rely on the NFC chip in two phones to kick off a Bluetooth data transfer.