O2 will apply for an e-money licence this year, signalling its commitment to support contactless payments in the UK in the near future.
Speaking to Computer Weekly, James Le Brocq, managing director of financial services at O2, said the company will be making some significant announcements by the end of 2011 as part of its vision for bringing customers' wallets together with their mobile phones through contactless technology.
"It's coming together. Critical mass will hit us by the Olympics next year. We've done enough trials. We're now getting into scale. All it will take is a couple of large organisations to embrace it to reach tipping point," said Le Brocq.
He added that O2 will be making its application for an e-money licence from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) this year so it can hold money from customers and facilitate transactions. The licence will also provide capability to launch and run financial services in the company's own right without a retail banking partner.
But Le Brocq added it would be the second half of the year before O2 were ready to make a roll-out or public announcement.
Mobile network operator Everything Everywhere has announced a partnership with Barclaycard to roll out a payment system later this year that uses mobile phones.
The system will use near field communications (NFC), short-range wireless technology, and work in a similar way to contactless payments cards already accepted by retailers such as Pret a Manger, Little Chef, and the National Trust.
O2 trialled NFC payments for London travellers in 2007 using a Nokia 6131 NFC mobile phone.