Gulf Telco Plans to Launch NFC Payment Service on BlackBerrys

Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates’ largest telco, disclosed plans to introduce NFC payment to the Gulf state, putting a MasterCard PayPass application on SIM cards in at least one NFC-enabled BlackBerry model.

An announcement today by MasterCard Worldwide noted that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion would collaborate on the project along with France-based Oberthur Technologies, which is believed to be making the NFC-enabled SIMs.

RIM announced in August that Etisalat would be introducing its BlackBerry Bold 9900. A report by Reuters said today that this would be the first model supporting Etisalat’s NFC service, which would put a PayPass “debit prepaid” application on the phones. The name of the planned bank issuer, however, has not been released.

The report quoted Etisalat senior manager for m-commerce, Enrique Beza, as saying that the carrier hopes to reduce churn by offering the service. Etisalat is in a heated battle for subscribers with competing operator du, which together make up UAE’s telecom duopoly.

“Hopefully, by adding services, especially financial services, this is an application that our subscribers will appreciate and stay with us," he reportedly said, likely speaking at the Gitex computer and electronics trade show being held this week in Dubai.

It’s the first announcement of a planned NFC payment service using a BlackBerry phone. But while the Reuters report said Etisalat predicts the service will launch before the end of the year, it also noted that the payment service was pending approval from UAE government regulators.

In addition, the BlackBerry Bold and NFC-enabled SIM cards from Oberthur are still believed to be undergoing certification from MasterCard to carry a PayPass application–though MasterCard could grant a waiver to allow the service to launch.

But the biggest obstacle to an NFC payment rollout in the UAE–besides the shortage of NFC phones–is the scarcity of point-of-sale terminals accepting contactless payment.

Fewer than 2% of POS terminals in the country, or about 700 terminals, support PayPass, NFC Times has learned.

MasterCard was not available for comment on today’s announcement. Its release did not say when the service would launch.

Etisalat group, which has branch operators in 18 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, announced in July it had launched a “Touch and Go” NFC payment service with its subsidiary, Zantel, in Tanzania. The service, which also has MasterCard and Oberthur as partners, would add to Zantel’s mobile-banking service in the East African country.

The announcement didn’t mention the number of merchants that could accept NFC-based payments in Tanzania or phone models available, however. It did say a mobile adaptor would be available, likely Oberthur’s NFC bridge technology that uses a flexible antenna to connect to SIM cards in non-NFC phones.

RIM’s BlackBerry Bold 9900 has an embedded secure chip and also supports a single-wire protocol connection to the SIM. That is probably true of its NFC-enabled Curve, as well, which RIM also has introduced in a variety of markets.

MasterCard, in its announcement today, indicated the application on the Etisalat NFC phones would be a prepaid service, funded from users’ credit, debit or prepaid MasterCard card accounts. The consumers would be prompted to enter a PIN code on their mobile phones before completing a transaction, said MasterCard.

Yesterday, RIM’s co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, also speaking at Gitex in Dubai, announced that new NFC-enabled BlackBerrys would be able to transfer documents, contacts and other data in peer-to-peer mode with RIM’s BlackBerry Tag feature. The NFC phones would require an update to the BlackBerry 7 operating system on the phones to support the P2P feature.

HEADLINE NEWS

In-Depth: Persistent Consumer Security Fears about Mobile Payments Prove Difficult to Dislodge

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Results of yet another survey has shown that a significant percentage of U.S. consumers continue to harbor security fears about using their smartphones for payments, a stubborn problem that has hindered growth of mobile payments from the beginning.

Mobile Suica Still Accounts for Disappointing Share of Suica Users and Transactions in Japan

NFC TIMES Exclusive – While Apple Pay next month will mark the 5th anniversary since its launch in the U.S., there is another contactless-mobile payments service that is three times as old as Apple Pay–Japan’s Osaifu-Keitai, or wallet phones, which this year turned 15. 

Rome Latest Transit System to Launch Open-Loop Fare Collection; also Enables Monthly Passes with EMV Cards

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Rome has become the second major city in Italy–and one of a small but growing number of large cities globally–to enable riders to pay transit fares with EMV contactless credit, debit and prepaid cards and NFC devices.

Vivo Last of Major Chinese Smartphone Makers to Officially Launch NFC Pays Wallet

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Vivo, China’s second largest smartphone maker, made it official this week, launching its NFC-enabled “vivo Pay” wallet, the last of the major Chinese phone OEMs to roll out NFC payments–though their use has been disappointing, at least for payments in stores.

In-Depth: Fit Pay’s Troubles Indicate Difficult Business Case for Provisioning to Wearables

Sep 19 2019

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight –  Given the poor financial results of U.S.-based Fit Pay, it’s becoming clear that the business case for provisioning of payment cards to wearable devices remains difficult.

Analysis: Chase Pay Latest Bank Wallet to Shut Down; Why Did They Fail?

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Plans disclosed this week by JPMorgan Chase to shut down its Chase Pay app for in-store purchases is yet another nail in the coffin–perhaps the final one–for bank wallets in the U.S. And the situation does not look much brighter for bank-issued wallets abroad.

Miami Latest U.S. City to Introduce Open-Loop Transit Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight Transit officials in Miami-Dade County, Fla. are the latest in the U.S. to introduce open-loop payments of fares with contactless credit and debit cards and bank card credentials on NFC wallets, launching the service yesterday on the city's relatively small metro network, with plans to expand to buses later.

UK Tram Riders Take to Tapping with NFC phones to Pay for Fares, According to Early Results

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Transport for Greater Manchester, which last month launched open-loop payments on its large Metrolink tram network, said Thursday that contactless credit and debit cards and NFC wallets accounted for a combined 170,000 rides during the first four weeks of the service.

In-Depth: NFC Wallet Use for Open-Loop Transit Grows but Still Makes Up Relatively Small Share of Contactless Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive – When New York City transit officials announced Tuesday that the 1 millionth ride paid for through their new OMNY open-loop payments service had arrived ahead of schedule, they also proudly noted that 80% of the contactless payments had come from NFC wallets, not physical bank cards. 

PayPay Gets Off to Quick Start as One of Many Digital Payments Services in Cash-Loving Japan

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – As Japan continues to fight what to date has been a losing battle against cash, an announcement by the joint venture behind QR code-based payments service PayPay offers a little bit of encouragement. 

Research Firm Projects Use of NFC Mobile Wallets in U.S. to Remain Disappointing This Year

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – As Apple Pay approaches the fifth anniversary of its launch in the U.S., there is more research showing that most American consumers simply don’t see the value of tapping to pay with NFC-based payments services. 

In-Depth: Five Years After Transport for London Launched Contactless Across Its Transit Network, UK Open-Loop Rollout Remains Uneven

Aug 15 2019

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Five years ago next month, Transport for London introduced open-loop contactless payments across its transit network, including metro, trams and commuter rail, following an earlier launch on buses. The service now accounts for more than half of all pay-as-you-go journeys and has become a global showcase for the technology.