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

Sony Launches Support for FeliCa Technology on HCE Devices, Though Few Handsets Available Yet

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Japan’s Sony Corp. is supporting host card emulation with its proprietary FeliCa contactless technology, which could enable service providers to avoid the need for secure elements in rolling out FeliCa-based applications on NFC phones.

Samsung Semiconductor Faces Challenges in Rolling Out Contactless-Payments Service for Wearables

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Samsung Semiconductor believes there is room for yet another closed-loop payments service, one that enables consumers to pay with contactless wearables devices that carry its dual-interface chips.

Android Pay Launches in Belgium, While State-Owned Belfius Bank Takes Two-Staged Approach to Own HCE Rollout

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Two of the largest banks in Belgium have launched, or are planning to launch, HCE-based mobile payments but chose different approaches: BNP Paribas Fortis decided to first launch with Android Pay, while state-owned Belfius Bank plans to enable the service within its mobile-banking app.

Serbia's KomBank Seeks to Increase Mobile Banking Users with HCE Service

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Komercijalna banka Beograd, known as KomBank, one of Serbia’s largest banks, incorporated a host-card-emulation-based mobile payment service into its mobile banking app to increase awareness and use of the app, Slobodan Lukić, the bank's deputy director of the payment cards division told NFC Times.

Apple Pay Launches in Ireland and Gears Up in Italy; but Only One Major Bank On Board So Far in Each Country

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple has expanded its mobile payments service to another small market, with its launch Tuesday in Ireland, but is preparing to launch in a much larger market, Italy.

Taiwan’s Largest Transit Ticketing Service Plans Bluetooth-Enabled Mobile Ticketing, Though Needs Regulatory Approval

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Taiwan’s EasyCard Corp., the operator of the country’s largest closed-loop transit and retail payments service, is working with a provider of Bluetooth-enabled mobile payments technology to offer customers an NFC-like experience to pay for rides and purchases in stores.

Australian Domestic Debit Network Nears Launch of Token Service Provider to Compete with Visa and Mastercard

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Australia’s largest domestic debit network, eftpos, plans to launch its overdue tokenization service commercially by the second quarter, likely serving at least one of the country’s big four banks for its HCE mobile wallet and one or more of the “Pays” wallets, such as Android Pay and possibly Apple Pay, NFC Times has learned.

Certification Issues and Legal Battle Delay Launch of Kerv Ring; Wearables Maker Says Ring Ready

NFC TIMES Exclusive – After two years addressing design, certification and legal issues, UK-based start-up Kerv Wearables says it’s finally ready to launch its NFC-enabled ring.

Exclusive: Why are Some of the Largest U.S. Merchants Balking at Supporting NFC?

NFC TIMES Exclusive – While the base of contactless point-of-sale terminals in the U.S. has grown substantially over the past two and a half years, some of the country’s largest merchants continue to resist the idea of accepting such NFC wallets as Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Exclusive: Taiwanese Banks to Pay Apple Cut of Transaction Fees on Par with U.S.

NFC TIMES Exclusive – TAIPEI, Taiwan: Apple will collect a cut of transaction fees from Taiwanese banks on credit card transactions that is around the same level as the tech giant takes from U.S. credit card issuers, when Apple Pay launches in Taiwan, expected later this month, NFC Times has learned.

Analysis: Why QR Codes are Challenging NFC to Enable Mobile Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Despite the resurgence in demand for NFC technology with the launch of Apple Pay in 2014, followed by other NFC-enabled “Pays” wallets and the separate rollout of HCE technology by Google, use of QR codes for mobile payments continues to grow in popularity globally.

Aussie Banking Group: Apple Holding Issuers ‘Hostage’ with Its Restrictive NFC Policies

Feb 13 2017

NFC TIMES Exclusive – A spokesman for four major Australian banks battling Apple for access to NFC technology on its iPhones shot back at Apple's latest filing with Australian competition officials, denying that the banks are trying to avoid paying fees to Apple to participate in the payments service, the spokesman told NFC Times.