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CaixaBank, Telefónica to Trial NFC Payment Again at Mobile World Congress; Part of ‘NFC Experience’

Spain’s CaixaBank, mobile operator Telefónica and Visa Europe, along with technology vendor Gemalto, plan to demonstrate NFC payment at next week’s big Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The project could be a lead-up to a long-awaited commercial launch of NFC payment later this year by the bank and telco, which have already extensively trialed NFC. They have not yet said when they will roll out NFC, however.

Trial organizers will provide NFC-enabled Sony Xperia T handsets with the prepaid Visa payWave application, preloaded with €15 (US$20.09), to 3,500 Mobile World Congress delegates. Telefónica developed the mobile-wallet application, and CaixaBank’s prepaid payment subsidiary, MoneyToPay, is the issuer of the payWave application, which will be stored on Telefónica SIM cards. Gemalto likely will provide the NFC SIM cards. It’s not clear whether any trusted service manager is required for the project.

There are at least 16,000 NFC-enabled retail point-of-sale terminals available in and around Barcelona, along with about 1,000 taxis and an unspecified number of terminals in the Fira Gran Via conference and expo venue itself.

The CaixaBank savings bank, part of La Caixa, is one of Spain’s largest retail banks and the strongest backer to date of contactless payment and NFC among financial institutions in the country.

Over the past year, the bank has distributed more than 1 million contactless EMV cards to customers and deployed at least 750 contactless ATM machines, which it developed–the first bank to deploy such a system.

In December, the bank also started issuing passive contactless stickers and planned to have distributed 200,000 of them by the time of the Mobile World Congress.

La Caixa, along with Telefónica and Visa, held a smaller NFC trial three years ago at the Mobile World Congress, with the bank putting a Visa payWave application on Telefónica SIMs in Samsung  S5230 NFC phones. That year, 400 delegates participated in the trial, which was beset by technical problems. About 30 merchant locations around the venue had contactless payment terminals.

But this trial served as a prelude to one of the largest NFC trials held to date, in the resort town of Sitges, near Barcelona, where organizers enabled 1,500 users to tap a Visa payWave-enabled payment application issued by La Caixa to pay at 500 merchant locations. The application ran on Telefónica SIMs, provided by Gemalto.

The new NFC payment trial is part of the “NFC Experience,” put on by mobile operator trade group, the GSMA, which organizes the Mobile World Congress.

The GSMA earlier announced other parts of the program, which will help it demonstrate NFC technology to MWC attendees.

At registration, attendees with certain NFC-capable mobile phones can choose to have an optional virtual badge installed on their phones, which will enable users to gain venue access through NFC-enabled access control readers. The virtual badge will supplement, rather than replace, the physical badge issued to all Mobile World Congress attendees, but they won’t have to show their photo ID each time they enter the venue.

An area of the Fira Gran Via venue, which the GSMA is calling the NFC Center, will be devoted to displays and demonstrations of NFC handsets and smart posters, as well as information about the NFC ecosystem.

And there will be more than a dozen NFC “interactive zones” located along walkways, at entrances and in exhibition halls. Users will be able to tap NFC tags in smart posters to get exhibitor directories and information on the venue and nearby services.

In and around Barcelona, NFC displays at the major airport, in hotels near the venue and select restaurants and tourist sites will have NFC touch points. That’s in addition to the contactless POS terminals in stores and taxis.

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