Singapore NFC Consortium Members Say They are Readied for Launch
After more than a two-month delay, members of a government-backed NFC consortium in Singapore made up of vendors, telcos and service providers say they are ready to launch the first of their planned commercial NFC services in coming weeks.
Mobile operator StarHub, a consortium member, announced Friday it would launch its SmartWallet smartphone app later this month, along with payment services from other consortium members DBS bank and EZ-Link.
The three parties were the first to announce plans for an NFC commercial launch last year as part of the island nation’s coordinated approach to building an NFC infrastructure, overseen by the country’s telecommunications and information services regulator, Infocomm Development Authority, or IDA.
The agency last October announced the award of a contract to a Gemalto-led consortium to build the infrastructure and launch a rollout NFC services. The consortium also includes telcos SingTel and M1 and Citibank Singapore.
StarHub said it’s NFC wallet will include a credit application from DBS supporting MasterCard’s PayPass contactless application along with an e-purse from EZ-Link that could be used for retail purchases and a separate prepaid PayPass service, also from EZ-Link. EZ-Link's NFC e-purse will not apparently be used for transit fare collection, like its contactless cards, however, at least not at first. UPDATE (Aug. 8): And one of the parties involved in the project said it's not clear that the e-purse will be ready from day one of the launch for retail purchases.
UPDATE (Aug. 13): But EZ-Link CEO Nicholas Lee told NFC Times the e-purse would be on the SIMs at launch. Project organizers would begin testing use of the purse for transit fare collection toward the end of the year, he said.
“The transit performance requirements are much higher, and we need to consider how different types of NFC-enabled mobile handsets will be tested and be usable for use in transit,” Lee said. “As you can imagine, nontransit or retail payment is much easier to manage.” END UPDATE.
StarHub said its SmartWallet app also could be used to browse, download and redeem "virtual coupons." The consumers will be able to redeem the coupons along with the payments with just one tap of their smartphones at certain merchants accepting PayPass, said StarHub.
The telco indicated it would make at least three NFC smartphones available for the launch, the Samsung Galaxy S lll, Sony Xperia sola and Xperia S, all Android phones. Subscribers will need to change their SIMs to those that can handle NFC applications. Gemalto is expected to supply the NFC SIMs and will provide the TSM services.
At launch, consumers would be able to tap to pay at more than 30,000 contactless terminals at retail locations and taxis in Singapore, according to the IDA. StarHub said there are more than 20,000 point-of-sale terminals in Singapore supporting PayPass. The other terminals probably support the CEPAS application, used by EZ-Link.
As NFC Times reported last month, the high-profile commercial launch of NFC mobile payment planned for Singapore has fallen behind schedule.
The IDA had set a tight deadline for the launch of eight months after the award of the contract with three payment applications. IDA selected the winning consortium in its “Call for Collaboration” tender request in late October, which meant the project was mandated to launch in late June.
While Singapore is a small market, with only a population of 5 million, the IDA-led project is a test of whether government mandates for an interoperable NFC platform could work for the island nation or for other small countries.
The contract comes with funding from IDA, which at the time it awarded the contract said that the agency and the consortium members would invest a combined S$40 million (US$31.6 million) in the project–a relatively lavish sum for a small project.