Turkcell Launches ZTE Android NFC Phone as it Continues Mobile-Wallet Rollout
Turkey’s largest operator, Turkcell, has introduced a second branded Android NFC phone model for its mobile wallet and has launched a new toll-collection application for the model.
The phone, which Turkcell calls the T11, is made by Chinese phone maker ZTE. It is believed to be the first ZTE phone introduced for NFC services. The launch follows the introduction by Turkcell last summer of its first rebranded NFC phone model, the T20, made by another Chinese telecoms equipment maker, Huawei. The phone is also known as the Huawei U8650NFC Sonic.
Turkcell last week also introduced the BlackBerry Bold 9900 for its NFC mobile wallet, the Cep-T Cüzdan. Turkcell launched NFC commercial service last year with the Samsung S5230, along with a bridge technology.
As NFC Times reported earlier this month, Turkcell is among the most aggressive operators globally rolling out NFC and is planning to expand its wallet in 2012. Part of the strategy is to introduce its own branded phones, customized by the Chinese phone makers. The handsets are designed to be affordable for Turkish consumers in a largely unsubsidized mobile phone market.
Turkcell introduced its first branded phone, the Android-based T10, last year, also made by Huawei, which doesn’t have an NFC chip built-in.
Turkcell has so far sold more than 300,000 in total of its T-series, the T10, T20, and the T20 is the best-selling Android phone in Turkey, Ergi Sener, mobile wallet product manager at Turkcell, confirmed to NFC Times. The telco is expected to introduce more self-branded phones, and all are likely to support NFC.
“We want to support NFC penetration with Turkcell-branded SIM-based NFC devices,” he said.
The newest phone, the T11, carries an NFC chip from NXP Semiconductors. NXP also supplies the chip for the T20. Both phones support the single-wire protocol, or SWP, enabling Turkcell to store secure applications on the NFC-enabled SIM cards it issues. The BlackBerry Bold 9900, which uses an NFC chip from Inside Secure, also supports the SWP.
The T11 sports a 2.8-inch screen, smaller than the 3.5-inch screen on the T20. It retails for a reported 389 Turkish lira (US$213).
The only real NFC applications in the Turkcell wallet so far are MasterCard PayPass mobile credit cards issued by three major Turkish banks, Yapı Kredi, Garanti Bank and, more recently, Akbank. Users can tap to pay at about 60,000 point-of-sale terminals in Turkey that accept PayPass and many more outside of the country.
But the wallet, like contactless bank cards in Turkey, is used little by consumers so far. Turkcell hopes to broaden the appeal of its wallet by adding applications, such as loyalty and transit ticketing, as well as toll collection.
As NFC Times earlier reported, the rollout of NFC-based loyalty is complicated by the fact that checkout counters at many Turkish merchant locations are already crowded with multiple point-of-sale terminals, and these terminals are owned by banks promoting their own loyalty schemes.
The T11 is the first phone supporting Turkey’s contactless toll-collection system, KGS, which enables users to tap to pay tolls at bridges and highways in Istanbul and around Turkey, using Mifare technology.
Turkcell had intended to introduce the application for the T20, but communication problems between the phone and the Mifare readers at toll booths delayed the launch.
Mifare cards now support the KGS toll-collection system, and major issuer Bank Asya said commuters use it nearly 400,000 times per month from both Mifare-only cards and the bank’s contactless bank cards that carry a separate KGS Mifare application. Total spending is just under 1.3 million Turkish lira (US$690,000) per month. Bank Asya is issuing the KGS application for the Turkcell wallet.