A1

Headquarters: 
Austria

Austria’s largest mobile operator is also a European pioneer in mobile commerce.

A1, formerly known as mobilkom Austria, was one of the first telcos anywhere to start its own financial institution, A1 Bank, in 2002.

The banking license enables subscribers to pay parking fares, transit tickets and make Internet purchases on computers using their mobile phones and mainly SMS. The charges usually appear on subscribers’ phone bills.

A1, part of the Telekom Austria Group, began enabling subscribers to buy SMS-based transit tickets with their mobile phones in 1999, even before starting the bank. And in 2001, it launched an Austrian branch of German-based mobile payment platform Paybox, which later allowed for interoperable mobile-payment services with other Austrian mobile operators.

In September 2007, mobilkom introduced phones that support NFC, which reduces the steps necessary for subscribers to buy the SMS tickets on Austria’s national railway and Vienna’s metro. It also enables subscribers to tap to buy snacks in vending machines and use other network-based commerce more quickly. The telco even created its own NFC target mark for the services.

The telco heralded the move as the first “rollout” of NFC services and said the ease of use NFC offers has increased m-commerce transactions. But the telco could only offer one handset, the Nokia 6131, to the public. It later added the 3G Nokia 6212 in early 2009. All told, it said it had sold about 40,000 of the NFC phones as of fall 2009, although it probably would have sold as many of these handset models in the non-NFC version.

A1 also launched a small trial putting transit ticketing on the embedded secure chip in the 6212, enabling Austrian national railway conductors to tap the phones to verify the tickets. That was not possible with the SMS-ticketing and enables mobilkom to allow subscribers to download higher-value tickets.

The telco plans to put the ticketing application on SIM cards it issues after NFC phones are available supporting the application. It will also likely put a credit card application on the SIMs, once contactless point-of-sale terminals are available in Austria.

A1 launched a conventional Visa-branded credit card in September 2009, which it later plans to make contactless. It could also move this contactless application to NFC phones.

And in April 2012, A1 announced it planned to roll out its own NFC payment brand, paybox NFC, an effort to expand its paybox online and mobile-parking payment scheme to the physical point of sale. It will face an uphill battle trying to establish the scheme.

Key figures: 
Customer Base 2009
2008 Change*
Subscribers 4.6 4.3 3.4%
Mobile, in millions, for June of year indicated *For unrounded figures
Key NFC Personnel: 
Christoph Kössler, senior product manager and project lead for paybox NFC
Major NFC and Contactless competitors: 

T-Mobile Austria, Orange

Last Updated: 
Apr 2012
Author: 
Balaban

HEADLINE NEWS

Study: Merchants Could Boost Sales by Easing Fears Over Digital Security

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – A survey conducted by American Express suggests that U.S. merchants could increase their online sales by taking steps to enhance the security of customers' information.

Visa Expands Token Service Provider ‘Partner’ Program, Though Most Vendors Not Yet Integrated with VTS

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight ­– Visa this week announced a new list of 13 “partner” companies to help it distribute and manage Visa-generated tokens, which the network giant is promoting for use in what it hopes will be large-scale rollouts of Internet of Things devices that can do payments.

Analysis: Apple Apparently Sees Need for Additional Pairing Technology with Support for NFC Tag Reading

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight ­– Nearly three years after embracing NFC technology for mobile payments but declining to support NFC’s tag-reading mode, Apple, in a surprise move, is adding tag-reading support to its NFC-enabled devices, including the iPhone 7 series and forthcoming iPhone 8, as well as its Apple Watch.

Exclusive: Major U.S. Processors Say In-Store Transactions for Pays Wallets Remain Disappointing

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Apple Pay and the other major Pays wallets still only account for around 1% of card transactions in the U.S., three major processors told NFC Times. At least two of the processors say they haven’t seen growth in Apple Pay over at least the past year.

Alipay North America Chief Insists Company has No Plans for U.S.-Based Wallet

NFC TIMES Exclusive –  Alipay has no plans today to introduce a mobile wallet in the U.S., and is instead expanding its merchant acceptance footprint in the U.S. only to serve Chinese visitors, Souheil Badran, president of Alipay North America, told NFC Times.

NFC Secure Element Shipments Likely Dropped for First Time in 2016, and Vendor Group Cuts Forecast for 2017

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Shipments of NFC secure elements almost certainly fell in 2016, based on recent figures released by vendor association Eurosmart, though the group is again declining to release specific shipment figures for NFC cards and embedded chips, instead combining the NFC unit shipments with those for machine-to-machine modules.

Samsung Pay Launches Commercially in Taiwan; No. 4 Credit Card Issuer Taishin Reveals Apple Pay Card Adds

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Samsung made it official, launching Samsung Pay commercially today in Taiwan with seven banks, as expected, following Apple Pay to the market by about two months and beating Android Pay, which is expected to launch on the island nation as early as next week. 

Why is Mobile Wallet Adoption So Disappointing? Some Industry Players Weigh In

NFC TIMES Exclusive –  NFC wallets are failing to catch on in the U.S., especially for in-store transactions, for a variety of reasons, including poor awareness among consumers and cashiers, lack of full buy-in from merchants, problems with certifying terminals for contactless and an insufficient value proposition, said industry players, including a representative from Google.

Samsung Pay Launches in UK Without Major Banks or MST Technology

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Samsung today finally launched its Samsung Pay mobile payments service in the UK, well behind rival payments services Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Wal-Mart Still Balks at Accepting NFC; Nordstrom Wants Right to Refuse Some NFC Wallets

NFC TIMES Exclusive – LAS VEGAS, Nev.: It’s been more than two and a half years since Apple Pay launched in the U.S., and retail giant Wal-Mart Stores still is no closer to accepting NFC at its 4,000-plus stores in the U.S. then when Apple began rolling out its NFC-enabled mobile payments service in October of 2014.

Apple Testing Loyalty Feature; Google Expected to Expand Payments for Home Device

NFC TIMES Exclusive – As they struggle with low user adoption of their respective wallets in the U.S., Apple and Google are seeking to add more features, hoping to increase transactions, NFC Times has learned.

Taiwan Chief Banking Regulator Reveals Apple Pay Card Adds; Samsung Launches Early Access in Country

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The chairman of Taiwan’s banking regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission, Wednesday revealed just how fast a start Apple Pay got on the island nation, following its launch of the mobile payments service there in late March.