French Telcos Eager to Put More NFC Phones on Sale

French mobile operators expect to have up to 10 NFC phone models on sale by the end of the year, but may have trouble meeting their goal of selling 1 million of the phones in 2011.

France Telecom-Orange, France’s largest mobile operator, expects eight to 10 NFC phone models to be available to subscribers by the end of the year, said Didier Durand, director of mobile contactless services for Orange in France, speaking at the recent WIMA 2011 conference in Monaco.

That includes one or more BlackBerry models, at least one Android phone from LG Electronics, Samsung’s Wave 578, and at least two 2G feature phones: a Java-based phone from LG and the follow-up to the Samsung S5230, Player One, he told NFC Times.

Orange, like the other French telcos, requires NFC phones that support the standard single-wire protocol connection between the NFC chip and SIM card, enabling secure NFC applications to be stored on SIMs, which the telco issues.

That may be why the list of phones Orange France is anticipating does not include Nokia’s first Symbian NFC phone, the C7, which the handset maker earlier this month activated for NFC with a Symbian upgrade. The phone does not support applications on SIMs or any secure element, for that matter.

Nokia said it will support the single-wire protocol in future NFC phones, but it’s not clear yet when the Finnish handset maker will introduce new Symbian-based models or any NFC phones based on the Windows Phone 7 platform it has adopted. A source, however, told NFC Times that one or more new Symbian phones are planned in coming months.

The Nexus S from Google has the hardware to support secure applications on its embedded chip and also on SIMs, though an upgrade is needed to the Android operating system to make use of either of these secure elements. The same is believed true for Samsung’s Galaxy S II, which also is to carry NFC chips.

Laurent Jullien, director of contactless and payment services at France’s Bouygues Telecom, France’s third largest mobile operator, agreed that the telco likely would have a pool of about 10 NFC phones to choose from by the end of the year.

The French telcos are among the most aggressive worldwide in planning NFC rollouts. In February, Orange, Bouygues and No. 2 SFR, along with NRJ Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator, announced their intention to sell 1 million NFC phones among them by the end of the year. Orange had previously pledged to sell half a million of the phones itself.

But hitting that target will not be easy, especially given the seemingly languid pace most handset makers are taking in introducing their NFC phones.

“It depends on the ability of handset manufacturers to keep to their planning and integrate NFC in this planning,” Durand told NFC Times.

As of the end of April, pretty much the only phone on the French market supporting the single-wire protocol was the Samsung S5230.

Research in Motion is expected to announce details of one or more of its planned NFC BlackBerry phones as early as next month. These are expected to support applications on both SIMs and embedded chips. The NFC version of the Galaxy S II was expected by mid-year, though South Korean mobile operator KT said it would introduce the phone supporting NFC applications on the SIM this month. It’s not clear when an NFC version might be available in France.

No other Android NFC phone besides the Nexus S has been announced.

The Wave 578, a smartphone using Samsung’s own bada operating system, is expected in shops in France around June, as is a follow-up to the Samsung S5230, code-named the Regent, said Durand. LG’s Java-based NFC feature phone would arrive in July, he said. He did not know the name of the model.

It’s not certain when the other NFC phones will be available for subscribers to buy. 

“We want to see a lot of NFC phones for our customers,” Anne Bouverot, executive vice president for mobile services at France Telecom-Orange group, told NFC Times, adding: “The question in when.”

Even if the French telcos hit the million-phone mark, there will be few places for subscribers to use the devices this year.

The operators launched a precommercial NFC project in the French city of Nice last May. While similar projects have the backing of the French government, only two or three more cities will launch before the end of the year, including in Strasbourg and probably Caen.

The French mobile operators together sold about 3,000 NFC phones in Nice, and subscribers have activated only about 20% of those for NFC, confirmed French operators and service providers.

But trial organizers say that is not a disappointing figure, given that until November, the only major application available was transit ticketing. Florent Cetier, project manager at Veolia Transport, which runs the bus and tram network in Nice, said the transit operator was happy with the 20% take-up by riders carrying NFC phones. Only 40% of the population regularly uses mass transit in Nice, so the pool of potential NFC phone users is smaller than in many European cities. And only one NFC model has been available in shops in the city, the Samsung S5230.

“Twenty percent is a very good figure for transport,” agreed Bouygues’ Jullien.

The first bank added a payment service only around November. Two more banks launched their services earlier this year, enabling customers to tap their phones to pay at about 1,300 merchant locations that accept MasterCard PayPass or Visa payWave applications in Nice. Payment transaction volumes with the phones are still low.

The French telcos, however, have said that the point of the 1 million phone goal is to seed the market with NFC devices in anticipation of more services to come nationwide and to send a message to handset makers that demand is strong for phones supporting the single-wire protocol.


Insight: Apple’s Long Game Pays Off, Conquering Resistance to Apple Pay from Banks in Europe and Beyond

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – It’s coming up on six years since Apple announced its groundbreaking digital-payments service, Apple Pay. And while consumer adoption remains a work in progress, Apple has had considerable success gaining participation from banks and other issuers in what is now more than 50 countries worldwide.

Transit Agency in Canada Plans to Launch Mobile Ticketing, Citing Covid Fears

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Another transit agency in Canada has announced it will enable mobile ticketing, along with reloadable contactless cards, citing in part the Covid-19 pandemic and the desire to reduce the use of cash, vending machines and customer interaction with agency staff.

Biggest U.S. Supermarket Chain Trials Contactless as Covid-19 Fears Increase Demand for ‘No-Touch Payments’

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The announcement by The Kroger Co., the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., that it has begun trialing contactless payments in a subsidiary indicates that one of the last major holdouts among big U.S. merchants will eventually accept such NFC payments services as Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as contactless bank cards.

Southern California Transit Agency to Sell Tickets Via Google Maps and Google Pay; Others Expected to Follow

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – There’s more evidence that popular trip-planning apps Transit, Moovit and Google Maps are seeking to expand further into mobile ticketin

Insight: Apple Buys Mobile-POS Firm as It Seeks to Expand Acceptance of Contactless Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – In a move seeking to expand the base of merchants that can accept its payments service, Apple Pay, Apple has reportedly acquired Montreal, Canada-based mobile POS company Mobeewave, which could enable small shop owners, restaurants and street vendors, among others, to more easily accept contactless EMV cards and NFC mobile wallets.

Exclusive: Google Tests Mobile Ticketing Initiated in Maps App; Could Lead to Mobility-as-a-Service Offer?

Jul 23 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Three small public transit agencies in the U.S. are quietly testing use of Google Maps and Google Pay to enable customers to first plan then pay for tickets. It’s believed to be the first pilots of its kind for Google, a move that could mean the search giant plans to compete with such popular trip-planning apps as Transit and Moovit, which are starting to enable public transit ticketing and payments, NFC Times reports.

Los Angeles Transit Authority to Support Closed-Loop TAP Card in Both Apple Pay and Google Pay

Jul 17 2020

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, plans to introduce an Android version of its TAP closed-loop fare card, with a virtual TAP card for the Google Pay wallet, a Metro spokesman confirmed to NFC Times.

Uber Expands Mobile Ticketing to More U.S. Public Transit Agencies

NFC TIMES Exclusive – As expected, Uber today has expanded support for public transit ticketing in its app again, this time to a consortium of 13 small and mid-tier transit agencies in Ohio and Northern Kentucky–following two other U.S. transit agencies, in Denver and Las Vegas, which have already integrated with Uber–it was announced today. NFC Times had reported the planned move in late May. 

Open-Loop Fare Payments Rollouts Continue Post-Lockdowns, with Italy’s Fourth Largest City Latest to Launch Service

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Another of Italy’s major cities has launched open-loop fare collection, with Turin enabling customers to pay for rides on its one-line metro and certain bus routes by tapping their contactless EMV credit and debit cards, along with smartphones and smartwatches supporting NFC payments services.

Calgary Transit Launches Mobile-Ticketing Service with Plans to Expand to Open Loop

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Canada’s third largest city, Calgary, has introduced its first electronic fare payments service, offering mobile ticketing from a software-as-a-service platform provider, with plans to enable customers to pay for fares with their contactless EMV credit and debit cards and NFC wallets.

As E-Commerce Surges, Major U.S. Payments Networks Announce Plans to Expand Click to Pay Globally

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – As e-commerce continues to grow in importance as Covid-19 lockdowns ease, four major U.S. payments networks announced today they are laying the groundwork to expand their uniform e-commerce checkout platform internationally.

Transit Payments Company Head: Apple and Google Positioned to Take Bigger Piece of Payments Industry

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – The head of transit payments gateway and processor Littlepay said he believes that Apple and Google are well-positioned to take a “big bite out of the payment chain,” which could change their relationship with payments networks Visa and Mastercard from one of collaboration to one of competition.