Korean Telco Plans Commercial NFC Launch with Samsung Phones

SINGAPORE – South Korean mobile operator KT Corp. plans to launch NFC services in mid-October with more than 50,000 Samsung phones and intends to add an NFC smartphone model from LG Electronics in March supporting the Android operating system, KT’s Eun-Seok Kim disclosed today.

KT’s larger rival, SK Telecom, is expected to follow with a smaller NFC launch later in October using the same Samsung feature phones, and is also expected to expand early next year, probably with the LG smartphone model

The KT launch next month, which would include retail payment, transit-ticketing, banking and loyalty applications stored on SIM cards, would probably qualify as world’s first commercial launch of NFC services. As reported by NFC Times in March, Kim, deputy director for the m-financial business team at KT, had originally projected the project would launch in September with a possible 300,000 phones.

But Kim, who spoke today at the Near Field Communication World Asia 2010 conference in Singapore, told NFC Times that he doubted mobile operators elsewhere could order the same NFC phone models from Samsung and LG. That is especially true of the first phone, the Samsung SHW-A170K, a feature phone that supports South Korea’s mobile phone software standard, WIPI.

“This handset is made for only the Korean market,” he told NFC Times after his presentation.

Kim didn’t know the likely model of the LG Android phone or how many the telco would order. But he said it would also be customized for the Korean market. He added that local Korean handset makers KT Tech and Pantech likely would also produce NFC models.

All the phones, however, would support the international NFC standard, including the single-wire protocol connection between the NFC chips and SIM cards.

When asked why Samsung was not also producing an NFC smartphone model for the launch, Kim speculated the South Korea-based handset maker is still evaluating the market prospects for NFC. He considers the Samsung SHW-A170K as more of a “pilot” NFC model than one the phone maker plans to distribute widely.

But Samsung and LG, also based in South Korea, along with other phone makers, such as Taiwan-based HTC, are believed to be planning to introduce Android handsets supporting NFC next year for international markets. Others, such as Nokia and BlackBerry maker Research in Motion and possibly Apple are also expected to offer NFC models next year.

The Korean telcos plan to issue high-capacity SIM cards with and without NFC phones next year. Kim said KT’s tentative plans call for issuing 1-gigabyte SIMs that would work in NFC phones. SK Telecom also has talked about distributing giga-SIMs, though not necessarily for NFC phones. Korean SIM suppliers Solacia and later KEBTechnology are expected to develop the high-capacity SIMs, along with France-based Gemalto. SIMs issued for the NFC launch next month would carry much less memory though still more than standard SIMs, probably 768 kilobytes, Kim told NFC Times.

The NFC phones and high-capacity SIMs would replace nonstandard dual-interface SIM cards SK Telecom and KT have been issuing for about three years to carry the mobile-payment, transit, loyalty and banking applications. The applications can be downloaded and managed over the air and that will continue to be the case for the SWP-enabled SIMs in the NFC phones.

The current dual-interface or “combi” SIMs hook into antennas in specially equipped mobile phones and carry the popular T-money transit stored-value application in the capital Seoul, along with little-used mobile-credit card applications supporting Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass. They also store a membership-loyalty program and mobile-banking services that enable subscribers to make contactless withdrawals from ATMs and to trade stock.

Between them, the two telcos count about 1.5 million subscribers who use T-money on the contactless-mobile phones. The application also can be used for purchases in some retail stores. The mobile credit card service can be used in 140,000 stores, though the telcos and banks that issue the payWave and PayPass applications have not been successful in encouraging subscribers to tap to pay with their phones at the point of sale.

KT by itself has 800,000 mobile-banking subscribers, who do network-based balance checking and money transfers and contactless ATM withdrawals, paying a US$1 per month fee for the m-banking service. And about 100,000 KT subscribers tap their phones on readers for the telco’s points program with partner merchants.

With the gigabyte of flash memory that might be available on the SIMs next year, Kim earlier told NFC Times the telco believes it can sell subscribers entertainment-type content, which the subscribers could “pre-experience,” before buying.

And with NFC, the telco could introduce some tag-reading and peer-to-peer features, such as enabling subscribers to download content by tapping their phones to RFID tags in smart posters. That taps would automatically open a mobile-Internet connection

KT, Korea’s No. 2 telco, has been more active with NFC than SK Telecom, which has been heavily invested in the dual-interface SIMs and associated infrastructure.

KT, then known as KTF, took the lead in a series of “pay-buy mobile” NFC trials backed by mobile operator trade group the GSM Association. KTF launched its trial in late 2007, putting a MasterCard PayPass application onto a SIM card.

Kim told the Near Field Communication World Asia conference today that the planned NFC project next month is a “real commercial (launch), not a trial."

HEADLINE NEWS

Apple Pay Enables Ventra Closed-Loop Fare Card in Chicago after Long Delay

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Apple has finally made good on plans to enable fare payments through Apple Pay with the closed-loop Ventra card from the Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA, the latest major closed-loop card the tech giant has enabled in recent months.

Visa Rolls Out SoftPOS technology as It Seeks to Promote Acceptance of Contactless by More Small and Micro-Merchants

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight -  Visa is rolling out what it calls “Tap to Phone” technology to 15 global markets, as it seeks to enable millions of small and micro-merchants that now mainly take cash to also accept contactless EMV credit and debit cards and credentials on NFC devices.

Trip-Planning Apps Moovit and Transit Enable Ticketing and Payments for Another Transit Agency

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Multimodal trip-planning apps Moovit and Transit have introduced ticketing and payments in their apps for another North American transit agency, following an emerging trend for trip-planning apps to enable users to plan, book and pay for their rides all in one place. The app providers are offering the extra service as they seek ways to give users a better mobility-as-a-service experience.

Australia’s Commonwealth Bank Seeks to Expand Involvement in Public Transit and Other Mobility Payments Projects

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the acquirer and processor for the open-loop payments service rolled out by Transport for New South Wales in Sydney, says it is negotiating with transit officials in other Australian states to help launch similar payments services. It also hopes to be involved in payments for mobility-as-a-service platforms.

Report: Nearly Two-Thirds of Survey Respondents Say They’ve Used Contactless Cards During Pandemic

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – There’s more evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic is helping to change the way that consumers pay, with more use of contactless cards, mobile wallets and e-commerce channels, according to the “World Payments Report 2020” published Tuesday by global consulting firm Capgemini.

UK Public Transit Officials in Midlands Seek to Replicate London’s Success in Pay-as-You-Go Contactless

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Transit officials in the Midlands in the UK today are calling on the government to fund a London-style contactless fare-payments system across this large section of the country, which would enable riders to tap to pay for trips on rail, bus and tram networks with either closed- and open-loop cards and credentials on smartphones.  

Post-Lockdown, Transit Riders Want Agencies to Run Vehicles More Frequently, Provide Real-Time Arrival Information and Offer Contactless and Mobile Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight - Up to a third of transit riders in several cities say contactless payments and mobile ticketing would encourage them to return t

New York’s OMNY Project Completes Major Milestone, as Transit Officials Point to Steady Growth in Adoption

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it is seeing steady growth in use of its OMNY open-loop fare payments system by customers–though overall open-loop payments remain small–as the agency continues its phased rollout of acceptance of contactless EMV bank cards and NFC Pays wallets. 

In-Depth: Trip-Planning Giant Moovit Begins to Enable Ticketing and Payments, as Rivals Make Similar Moves

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Moovit, which bills itself as the world's largest “urban mobility app,” has begun to enable public transit ticketing and payments from its platform, as it seeks to deliver what it says is a true mobility-as-a-service experience for users.

Los Angeles Transit Authority Follows Through with Plans to Enable TAP Card for Apple Pay; Google Pay to Follow

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Another major U.S. transit agency has introduced a virtual closed-loop card for Apple Pay this week, with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, announcing the move Thursday. It comes a couple of days after the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, announced it had put its SmarTrip closed-loop card on Apple’s NFC-enabled devices, as well.

Apple Enables Virtual SmarTrip Fare Card for Apple Pay in Washington, D.C., with More Closed-Loop Transit Cards Expected This Year in U.S.

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Apple added support for its latest closed-loop transit card for Apple Pay, enabling customers of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, to tap their NFC-enabled iPhones and Apple Watches to pay for rides with WMATA’s SmarTrip virtual card.

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.