Visa Announces Certification of Six NFC Phone Models for SIM-based payWave
Visa has announced its first certifications of NFC phones, approving six models to run its contactless application, payWave, on SIM cards.
Visa and its European affiliate, Visa Europe, have approved the popular Samsung Galaxy S II, along with the LG Optimus Net and four BlackBerry models, the Bold 9900 and 9790, and Curve 9360 and 9380, to run payWave on SIM cards.
The certifications will be welcome news to banks and mobile operators in such countries as Poland, the United Kingdom, Spain and France that are planning their initial NFC rollouts using payWave. Some of their counterparts in North America and Asia also plan launches.
“The players are now in place for mobile payments to become a reality,” Sandra Alzetta, head of mobile business and innovation strategy at Visa Europe, said in a statement. “We are working with our member banks, mobile network operators and key handset partners to ensure that future payment technologies are as easy, intuitive and secure as card-based transactions are today.”
The certifications mean the NFC models have passed tests for security and usability conducted by Visa-approved labs. Banks and mobile operators can now commercially launch mobile payment with payWave running on SIM cards in the phones without the banks or other parties having to request waivers from Visa. They would still need Visa-approved NFC-enabled SIM cards, and it's not clear whether Visa has certified any NFC SIMs from card vendors. A spokesperson for Visa Europe, which issued the initial release, did not immediately respond when asked about SIM certification.
Visa and MasterCard have granted waivers to issuers for phones and SIMs many times in the past, mainly for NFC pilots, but also for some limited rollouts, especially in the case of MasterCard.
As of last fall, MasterCard had disclosed certifications of three NFC phone models: the Nexus S 4G to run the MasterCard PayPass application on an embedded chip for the Google Wallet, as well as the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and BlackBerry Curve 9360, two of the same models Visa has certified. Update: MasterCard also has certified the Curve 9380. End update. As with the Visa certifications, the MasterCard approval of the BlackBerrys is to run PayPass on SIM cards in the phones, though these models also carry embedded chips.
Update: Visa would not say whether it had certified any phones with embedded secure chips. “Visa...prefers to keep this confidential as per our NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) with handset manufacturers,” a Visa Inc. spokesman told NFC Times.
MasterCard told NFC Times it has certified NFC-enabled SIMs from France-based Gemalto and Japan-based Toshiba. Visa also declined to say whether it had certified any vendor's NFC-enabled SIM cards. End update.
Commercial NFC launches in such countries as the United Kingdom, Turkey and probably South Korea use NFC phones and probably cards for which MasterCard has granted waivers. Visa may have granted a waiver for the South Korean NFC rollouts, as well.
Telcos and banks in these countries using PayPass plan to expand their rollouts, while banks and telcos in Poland and France, among other European countries, are also interested in launching NFC commercially with PayPass.
The Visa NFC phone certifications required tests of security and usability with payWave terminals that also accept contactless payWave cards. About 175,000 point-of-sale terminals accept payWave in Europe alone. Besides security, card schemes, such as Visa, want consumers to have a consistent user experience, whether they use cards, NFC phones, NFC bridge technologies or passive stickers.
But unlike contactless cards, which have standard antenna configurations, antenna configurations vary across NFC models as well as in bridge technologies. The payment networks have lowered the required read ranges for NFC phones, bridge technologies and passive stickers, generally to around 2 centimeters, from the 4-centimeter range for cards. Visa has already certified some bridge technologies. Update: Visa said it tested the NFC phones to a range of 2 centimeters. End update.
Still, it will be a challenge for the payment networks and their labs to certify the variety of devices in a timely fashion, especially as the pace of introductions of NFC phones quickens.
Update: One former representative for a mobile operator in Europe, still involved in mobile payment, told NFC Times that he doubts the certification plans for NFC phones by payment networks are sustainable.
“I'm very surprised handset manufacturers agreed to do it,” said the source, who asked not to be identified. “(It's) not so because of the cost, but because of the delay implied before selling the product. The handset market is so competitive and time to market so critical, I think it will quickly evolve towards self-certification by the (phone) manufacturers.” End update.