AT&T Seeks to Offer Range of NFC Services; Plans to Hire TSM
U.S. mobile operator AT&T is seeking to offer other NFC services besides payments when it launches its mobile wallet—services that could include transit and event ticketing, digital door keys for offices, homes and hotel rooms and airline boarding passes, NFC Times has learned.
The applications would reside alongside Isis-based payment on the telco’s SIM cards, according to AT&T, which is looking for a trusted service manager to handle the nonpayment applications, NFC Times has learned.
The telco, which is a member of the Isis joint venture, issued a request for information for the TSM recently, both to manage the applications on the telco’s SIMs or other secure elements and, where necessary, to provision applications from such service providers as transit and entertainment venue operators, office building management companies, airlines and hotels.
According to the RFI, AT&T said the nonpayment applications might be part of an AT&T wallet application, NFC Times has learned. The RFI doesn’t apparently make it clear how AT&T will brand the wallet, though Isis plans to use its brand for mobile-commerce services and presumably the wallet.
AT&T did not respond to a request for comment from NFC Times. The telco issued the RFI less than two weeks ago and is expected to close it next month, NFC Times has learned.
AT&T and its Isis JV partners, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, are planning to launch a two-city trial of Isis payment in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Austin, Texas, this summer. The nonpayment NFC applications AT&T is proposing to enable are not expected to be part of the Isis trials.
Isis has hired France-based Gemalto to serve as its TSM to manage the section on the operators’ SIM cards devoted to Isis payment and other secure mobile-commerce applications, and AT&T said its own TSM would have to work with the Isis TSM.
Some observers view AT&T’s plans to recruit its own TSM as a snub of Isis.
As NFC Times reported earlier, AT&T, Verizon and possibly T-Mobile might also recruit their own TSMs to handle nonpayment applications.
But the split between payment and nonpayment applications was planned and the fact individual Isis telcos are seeking to hire their own TSMs doesn’t mean they are less committed to Isis, sources working on the project have told NFC Times.
“Isis’ mandate is NFC payments at the point of sale,” said one source earlier. “That puts them in a box. Their investors, AT&T and Verizon, are definitely looking at monetizing that secure element in nonpayment.”
But it’s not clear whether Verizon and T-Mobile will try to hire their own TSMs.
Until Isis launches, AT&T has been discouraging use of NFC on the smartphones it sells that support the technology, especially support of the rival Google Wallet.
For example, a marketing director for Samsung Telecommunications America told NFC Times that AT&T instructed the handset maker not to load NFC phone software into Samsung’s hybrid smartphone and tablet, the Galaxy Note, which AT&T introduced in February.
The Note out of the box only supports the previous version of Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread, which would have required Samsung to add NFC middleware to enable the NFC functionality.
Other phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X, run the latest version of Android, 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich. This version has the NFC software built-in. In these phones, AT&T has to allow basic NFC functionality, but doesn't enable the Google Wallet.