Turkcell Continues Branded NFC Phone Program, Introduces Tags
Turkey’s largest operator, Turkcell, has introduced its third self-branded NFC phone, a model made by Chinese supplier ZTE, and for the first time is including its own NFC tag in the box.
The phone, the MaxiPLUS5, is designed to work with Turkcell’s NFC-based mobile wallet, Cep-T Cüzdan, which the operator introduced last year as one of the first NFC wallets launched commercially worldwide.
According to Ergi Sener, Turkcell’s mobile wallet product manager, the MaxiPLUS5 is also the first of Turkcell’s three branded phones that has gotten certification from one of the major international payment networks, MasterCard Worldwide, to run the payment scheme’s PayPass application on the telco's certified SIM cards. He said Turkcell hopes to receive certification soon from Visa to run Visa payWave.
Turkcell introduced its first branded NFC phone, made by China-based Huawei, in July of 2011, called the T20, and known elsewhere as the Huawei U8650NFC. It followed that in January of this year with the ZTE-made T11 NFC model. Both the T20 and T11 have been granted waivers to certification requirements for performance and security by MasterCard. The MaxiPLUS5 doesn’t yet appear on MasterCard’s list of approved NFC devices.
All three of Turkcell’s branded NFC phones are affordable Android-based models. The MaxiPLUS5 runs the latest version of the mobile operating system, Android 4.0, but it also has such relatively modest features as a 3.5-inch touch screen and an 800MHz processor, made by Qualcomm.
All three Turkcell branded phones store NFC applications on SIM cards complying with the single-wire protocol, or SWP, standard. Four Turkish banks are offering applications for the telco’s wallet, Yapı Kredi, Garanti Bank, Akbank and, more recently, Denizbank–the latter with a prepaid PayPass application. There is also a contactless-mobile toll-collection service available and plans call for mass-transit ticketing and loyalty and couponing applications.
Turkcell offers 11 NFC models in total, including SWP-enabled phones from HTC, Research In Motion, Samsung Electronics and Sony, Sener said. But only the three Turkcell branded NFC phones and the BlackBerry 9900 from RIM now work with the mobile wallet. The telco is developing and testing the other NFC phones to work with the wallet.
Turkcell is among the most aggressive mobile operators globally in rolling out NFC services. It first launched NFC commercially in April 2011 and even operates its own trusted service manager. It is one of the few operators with its own branded phones supporting NFC.
To date, the telco said it has sold about a half million combined of its T-series phones–the T20, T11 and an earlier model, the T10, which is also made by Huawei. The T10 doesn’t have an NFC chip built-in, though Turkcell offered a bridge technology for the device, a SIM connected to a flexible antenna.
The MaxiPLUS5 is the first of Turkcell’s NFC phones in which the operator is offering its own NFC tag, embedded in a refrigerator magnet. It distributes one of the magnets in each box with the phone. Subscribers can tap the tag to open up a Turkcell mobile-ordering app to shop from any of four merchants, including Burger King and the Migros supermarket chain.
The tag contains the URL for the ordering application. After ordering, users could arrange for home delivery from at least some of the merchants. The other two merchants are gas company Aygaz and bottled water supplier Pürsu. For Migros, since it has a lot of products, the ordering site is linked to the retailer's own mobile-shopping site.
“Once the user taps the magnet, in the home page, she can see all the participating companies, such as Burger King, Aygaz, Pürsu and Migros,” Sener told NFC Times. “By selecting (any) one of these merchants, she can order whatever she wants.”
It is not clear how many Turkcell subscribers have activated the Cep-T Cüzdan mobile wallet or are using it to pay at the roughly 60,000 contactless point-of-sale terminals in Turkey.
The Turkish NFC market is expected to be competitive, with Vodafone’s Turkish branch planning to launch services this year, following delays, and No. 3 telco Avea is expected to launch eventually.