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Singaporean Government Awards TSM Contract; Expects NFC Launch in mid-2012

Oct 26 2011 (All day)

Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority has announced the award of its contract for trusted service management to a consortium led by France-based Gemalto, with plans calling for a nationwide launch of NFC payment, ticketing and tag-reading services on the island nation from mid-2012.

The consortium includes mobile operators StarHub and M1, along with SingTel, as well as major banks, DBS and Citibank Singapore, and the country’s largest transit fare collection operator, EZ-Link. EZ-Link’s stored-value application also can be used for retail purchases.

The contract comes with funding by the IDA, with the government agency taking an aggressive role in attempting to create an interoperable NFC platform that Singaporean mobile operators, banks, transit fare-collection operators and others can plug into. All told, IDA and the consortium members will invest S$40 million (US$31.5 million) in the platform and up to 10 NFC mobile payment and value-added services by 2014, said the IDA today. 

If true, that is a very well-funded project, considering Singapore only has a population of 5 million and according to tender documents, the IDA is requring the winning consortium to have a relatively modest 30,000 subscribers enrolled a little more than two years after the contract is awarded. 

The IDA, the country’s regulator of telecommunications and other information services, predicted NFC would roll out progressively, with three mobile-payment applications available by mid-2012. By that time there should be more than 20,000 retail locations or point-of-sale terminals and taxis able to accept contactless payment from NFC phones along with more than 600 locations in major shopping malls and office buildings equipped with smart posters.

Update: StarHub, EZ-Link and DBS Tuesday said they planned to launch NFC services by mid-2012.

StarHub said it would offer NFC phones to customers, though didn't specify models, and would “look for more payment and service partners to collaborate on unique services.” The parties indicated in a press release they would introduce payment, along with other services, such as enabling consumers to purchase tickets and receive news, discounts and promotions from retailers “with just a simple tap.” End update.

IDA said mobile payment would roll out first, followed by transit fare collection in early 2013, said the IDA. Plans reportedly call for not only NFC phones but NFC bridge technologies, for example, an NFC-enabled iPhone attachment.

While the IDA is not expected to issue regulations requiring all Singaporean telcos, banks and other service providers to use the platform and national TSM–which it calls a “trusted third party”–cooperation will be highly recommended among Singapore’s m-commerce players. Those players also include a competing payment service provider to EZ-Link, NETS.

The government contends its hands-on approach is needed to enable service providers to offer interoperable NFC payment and other services to subscribers from any of the small island city-state’s mobile operators and to build “widespread adoption of NFC mobile services by merchants and consumers.” Regulators in other developed countries have not been as directly involved in building NFC TSM platforms. TSMs mainly are responsible for downloading and managing applications secure elements in NFC devices.

“DBS, EZ-Link and Citibank will enable a wide range of their credit (and) debit scheme cards and stored value payment products, to be issued over-the-air through Gemalto, and stored on the secure chips in their customers' NFC-enabled mobile phones,” IDA said in a statement today.

“Besides payment services, Gemalto will also be collaborating with service providers to deploy a range of innovative NFC mobile value-added services such as interactive digital signage advertising, mobile coupons and mobile ticketing. This will allow consumers to interact with these digital signage advertisements and download coupons, tickets and product information onto their NFC-enabled mobile phones.”

Award of the contract is behind schedule and had been planned for last May or June. Singapore-based Cassis International led the other consortium on the shortlist with Gemalto for the contract. That consortium included some of the same members as the Gemalto group, such as telcos SingTel and M1, along with Citibank, but also included two handset makers, Nokia and Research in Motion, as well as NETS and MasterCard Worldwide.

To be selected, Gemalto and its consortium partners had to make a number of commitments, as stated in its tender request, or “call for collaboration,” last year. Among them was being able to offer applications from at least four payment service providers within 20 months of winning the award. The payment applications must be based on widely accepted credit payment schemes, such as Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide, as well as Singapore’s e-purse standard, CEPAS.

As part of the tender request, the government also will insist that Gemalto turn over ownership to the IDA of its interface specifications and processes for connecting service providers to SIMs or other secure elements in the NFC devices. The IDA said it needs to control the interface specs to ensure that all prospective service providers can hook into the system in the future.

Gemalto and its consortium also must commit to providing transparent pricing and publish its fee schedule for managing applications on SIM cards or other secure chips in NFC phones or bridge technologies.

Besides having only 30,000 subscribers enrolled a little more than two years after getting the contract award, along with 4,000 merchant locations, tender documents said the winning consortium must be handling at least 450,000 NFC-based retail payment transactions per month after 32 months.

Gemalto said last week its software and services unit had won at least a combined 20 contracts to provide mobile operators with TSM services as well as LTE services related to rollouts of the 4G network infrastructure by telcos. The TSM contracts include the Isis joint venture in the United States and the mobile wallet program from Deutsche Telekom, as NFC Times has reported. It likely also includes the IDA contract.

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