Canadian Telcos Launch Contactless-Payment Trial
Canada’s big three mobile operators took another small step in advancing their Zoompass mobile-payment service today by announcing a contactless-sticker trial. But a representative of the telcos’ joint venture stressed that they are not after the payments business of the country’s big five banks.
EnStream, the joint venture of Canada’s three major mobile operators, Bell Mobility, Rogers Communications and Telus, is testing a passive sticker to enable subscribers of its Zoompass P2P mobile-commerce service to also tap their phones at merchant locations that accept the MasterCard PayPass application.
The stickers are a companion to contactless prepaid PayPass cards that subscribers to the service can now tap to pay at physical stores from their Zoompass accounts. The sticker trial is scheduled to last for three months.
“It’s (sticker) a bridge technology to NFC,” Christian Ali, vice president of product development for EnStream, told NFC Times. “It allows consumers to put a sticker on the phone and transact with the phone at quick-service merchants.”
The telcos launched Zoompass in June 2009, mainly as a service to enable subscribers to send and receive money over the three networks. Registered users have prepaid Zoompass accounts they can automatically recharge from their regular bank or credit card accounts. They can download a mobile-wallet application to popular smartphone models, such as BlackBerrys, the iPhone and those supporting the Android operating system. But any phone on the network with a Web browser will support the service.
And users can sign up for an optional MasterCard-branded prepaid card issued by the small Peoples Trust bank in Canada, which they can use to pay in stores, for Web purchases and ATM withdrawals from the Zoompass accounts. The cards also store a MasterCard PayPass application, accepted at about 9,000 convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and gasoline stations in Canada and at other PayPass locations abroad.
The trial of the passive sticker, which about 200 selected users can affix to their phones, enable the telcos to study the contactless m-payment option while they wait for NFC phones, said Ali. While the stickers don’t communicate directly with the handset, trial participants are able to promptly see their payment transactions in the Zoompass phone wallet application, after the transactions pass through the payment-processing and the mobile networks.
While he declined to discuss EnStream’s business model for the m-payment service, Ali said the sticker and other contactless mobile payment devices the telcos might roll out are not intended to take business away from the banks.
“We don’t see this as competitive at all,” Ali said. “At most, what this should demonstrate to banks is that this is a service we would like to partner with them on.”
He added that the telcos are building a mobile-payment platform and a “true mobile wallet.”
“Users should have the freedom to choose what banks they want to use so it needs to be an open-wallet concept,” he concluded.
Canada's five largest banks, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, are either rolling out contactless cards or are expected to do so.