Singaporean Mobile Operators Launch NFC Payment on Android Phones
Two more mobile operators in Singapore have announced the commercial launch of NFC payment services, which they say will enable subscribers to tap to pay on contactless point-of-sale terminals throughout the island city-state.
SingTel, Singapore’s largest mobile operator, along with telco M1, today announced availability of the services on NFC SIM cards they have put on sale to postpaid subscribers. Each telco also announced availability of their first three NFC-enabled Android phone models to run the SIMs, including the Sony Xperia S and Samsung Galaxy S Advance. M1 is also offering NFC service on the Samsung Galaxy S III.
SingTel said it is enabling subscribers to pay for retail purchases with the ez-link electronic purse issued by payment service provider EZ-Link Pte. M1 subscribers can tap to pay for retail purchases with two applications in the telco’s M1 Mobile Wallet–an ez-link purse, as well as M1’s new co-branded prepaid card application, which supports MasterCard PayPass. EZ-Link also issues the prepaid PayPass application for M1.
The launches follow an announcement Aug. 3 by Singapore’s other major operator, StarHub, which said it would introduce its NFC-based SmartWallet this month. The wallet will offer three payment applications–the ez-link purse, a PayPass credit application issued by DBS bank and a separate prepaid PayPass mobile card issued by EZ-Link. StarHub plans to make three Android NFC phones available, as well, including the Samsung Galaxy S III.
All three telcos are part of a consortium chosen by Singapore telecoms and information services regulator Infocomm Development Authority, or IDA, to build an interoperable NFC infrastructure. France-based trusted service manager Gemalto is heading the consortium and will provide the TSM services, along with NFC SIM cards for one or more of the telcos.
IDA had set a tight deadline of eight months after awarding the contract to Gemalto in October of 2011 for the launch of the first NFC payment services. The vendor missed that late-June deadline but has recovered to launch only two months late with its consortium partners.
While Singapore is a small market, with a population of only 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.
The services announced by the three operators would be among the first commercial NFC launches worldwide, following true commercial rollouts of services in South Korea, Turkey, and the U.S.–the latter by Google with its NFC-based Google Wallet. There have also been small rollouts in the UK, New Zealand and Malaysia.
Telcos to Charge Fees for NFC SIMs
Both SingTel and M1 said they would charge subscribers fees to start up the mobile-payment service, including charges for the new NFC SIM cards the subscribers will need to store the applications.
SingTel said it is planning to charge users S$19.26 (US$15.43) for the NFC SIMs, as well as S$10 to use the ez-link purse. The latter charge consists of $5 to activate the purse and $5 of preloaded value. But the telco said it would waive the $10 charge for subscribers who sign up for the service by Sept. 30.
M1 would charge even more, S$26.75 for SIM cards for new subscribers, plus a $9.10 activation fee for the NFC services and $5 for the preloaded value in the ez-link purse. Existing customers could get the NFC SIMs for $19.25
The charges are one-time fees, and both telcos said they would not charge subscribers additional monthly service charges for using NFC. StarHub is also likely to charge similar one-time fees when it launches its SmartWallet service.
Focusing on Payment
According to the IDA, there are more than 30,000 retail point-of-sale terminals deployed in the city-state, including those at convenience stores, fast-food outlets, and taxis, and the Singaporean telcos say they are starting out with NFC payment.
StarHub noted earlier this month that there are 20,000 PayPass terminals available in Singapore alone, with hundreds of thousands more worldwide.
It’s unclear how many terminals accept the ez-link purse, which supports Singapore’s national standard e-purse application, CEPAS. SingTel also said today there are 20,000 of these ez-link terminals available at retail locations.
The ez-link purse on contactless cards is mainly used for transit fare collection in Singapore, such as paying fares on SMRT trains and buses. But the NFC version of the purse is not ready yet for collecting fares.
EZ-Link CEO Nicholas Lee told NFC Times earlier this month that the payment service provider would test the purse for paying transit fares with NFC phones near the end of this year.
“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.”
New NFC Logo
EZ-Link has also introduced a new ez-link NFC logo for its point-of-sale terminals in stores and other merchant locations, and has launched an NFC Web site to describe its services.
Users of the NFC version of the e-purse will be able to top up the purse over the air, as well as view their balance and transaction history.
The EZ-Link-issued M1 Prepaid MasterCard application can be used for purchases of up to S$100 (US$80.15) on mobile phones. The separate contactless co-branded M1 Prepaid MasterCard card will carry both a PayPass application and separate ez-link purse. The latter will enable users to tap to pay for both transit fares and retail purchases, unlike on the similar application on NFC phones.
StarHub said users will also be able to download coupons in their NFC phones, and they will be able to redeem them with a single tap while making purchases with the DBS bank PayPass application at certain merchant locations. These include some taxis, Watsons convenience stores, Toys R Us locations, Quiznos sandwich shops and Shaw Theatres.
The other telcos are also expected to offer nonpayment applications after their initial NFC-payment launches.
The ez-link NFC site currently lists seven NFC phones that the company says have been tested with its NFC application: the Galaxy S III and Galaxy S Advance, three Sony Xperia handsets, LG P700 Optimus and Nokia 603. All but the Symbian-based 603 run Android.
But Singapore’s three telcos have not confirmed availability of all of these phones for use with their SIMs. SingTel said it would offer the NFC-enabled Samsung Galaxy S Advance, Sony Xperia P and Sony Xperia S for sale in its shops to begin with, while M1 said it would make the Galaxy S III, Galaxy S Advance and Xperia S available. StarHub earlier said it would begin with the Samsung Galaxy S lll, Sony Xperia sola and Xperia S.