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

HCE Mobile Wallet is a Must-Have, Says Polish Bank, But Usage Still Low

NFC Times Exclusive – The high penetration of contactless point-of-sale terminals and high use of contactless bank cards in Poland has spurred the launch of HCE mobile wallets by some Polish banks, but use does not appear to be taking off yet–at least if one bank’s project is any guide.

Apple Pay Launches In Hong Kong, Where Other NFC Services Have Failed to Take Off

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple followed its launch of Apple Pay in France Tuesday with a launch in Hong Kong today, its ninth market globally and fourth in the Asia-Pacific region.

Apple Pay Launches in France with Few Issuers and Tokenization from Visa and Mastercard

Jul 20 2016

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple Pay, as expected, has launched in France, its eighth market globally and third in Europe after the UK and Switzerland; but it launches with only one major bank in France, Groupe BPCE.

Analysis: Two NFC Wallets from Telco Joint Ventures to Close as SIM-Based NFC Takes Another Big Hit

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Telco joint ventures on opposite sides of the globe announced within hours of each other plans to pull the plug on their respective NFC wallets, marking another big hit for the future of SIM-based NFC.

Android Pay Launches in Australia with ANZ but Not Yet with Westpac or Other Big Four Banks

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Google has launched Android Pay in its fourth country, Australia, with one of the country’s big four banks, ANZ, but the launch was beset by delays that have kept another of the big four, Westpac, on the sidelines for now.

Analysis: Apple Sees Familiar Pattern with Apple Pay Launch in Switzerland

NFC Times Exclusive – Apple’s expansion into Switzerland late last week with its Apple Pay service followed a familiar pattern, as in many of the other new markets the tech giant has expanded its payments service in: support first comes from relatively small issuers while major banks hold out.

As Apple Pay Launch Looms, French Telcos Continue to Push SIM-Based NFC with TSM Hub

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – With the launch of Apple Pay imminent in France, telcos there are continuing to push SIM-based NFC technology, hiring a trusted service manager for their new NFC SIM “hub”–although No. 1 telco Orange will also support Apple Pay.

Taiwanese Telco Joint Venture Steers Course Away from TSM; JV President Blames Vendor Safran

Jul 11 2016

NFC Times Exclusive – Alliance Digital Technology Co., the joint venture of five Taiwanese mobile operators and transit fare-collection operator EasyCard Corp., is steering away from the TSM business, which was the reason it formed three years ago, NFC Times has learned. It will add a focus on providing mobile ID and authentication, the JV told NFC Times.

French Domestic Network to Provide Tokenization for ‘Pays’ Service; Seeks to Take on Visa and MasterCard

Jul 19 2016

NFC Times Exclusive – French banks and their bank-owned domestic payments network STET plan to launch mobile payments in the first quarter of next year with a “large smartphone vendor” using the domestic payment network’s own token service provider, STET told NFC Times.

Samsung Deal with Alipay in China Angered UnionPay; Device Maker Gears Up to Enable Transit Ticketing

NFC Times Exclusive – SHANGHAI, China: While Apple has signed up more banks and is believed to have more cards registered in China for its Apple Pay service–around 10 million, according to a source–Samsung is seeking to outflank its rival with more acceptance points and more applications for Samsung Pay, NFC Times has learned.

Analysis: Microsoft Considers NFC Wallet App a Must-Have for Flagging Smartphone Business

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Microsoft, which has written off more than $8 billion from its failed Nokia acquisition and which is expected to fully pull the plug on its consumer smartphone hardware business, nonetheless believes a viable wallet app is a must-have to keep its Windows 10 operating system for phones viable–although its announcement this week of Microsoft Wallet is surrounded by unknowns, including exactly when the service will generally launch.

Reality Check: MasterCard Misses Big on Goal to Bring International NFC Acceptance to Japan

NFC Times Exclusive – Three years ago, in June of 2013, MasterCard announced it would “deploy a target” of 410,000 MasterCard PayPass-enabled point-of-sale terminals, to be rolled out “throughout Japan over the next three years.”