MasterCard Certifies Gemalto SIM for Mobile PayPass in Time for UK NFC Launch

MasterCard Worldwide’s certification of a Gemalto SIM card product to carry its PayPass application in NFC phones is believed to be a first by a major card scheme.

The global certification, announced this week by France-based Gemalto, helps clear the way for the planned launch in the United Kingdom in early summer of NFC services by credit card issuer Barclaycard and mobile operator Everything Everywhere. The launch will feature a PayPass application stored on SIM cards the telco issues. Other NFC launches are expected this year.

The certification means Gemalto’s implementation of PayPass on its NFC-enabled SIM cards has passed MasterCard’s compliance assessment and security testing requirements. The SIM cards also support the single-wire protocol, or SWP, standard, connecting the SIMs to the NFC chips in the phones. Other vendors are likely in the process of seeking MasterCard certification for the card brand's mobile PayPass application, as well.

MasterCard’s new mobile PayPass specifications are different from those of its conventional PayPass applications used on contactless credit, debit and prepaid cards. For one thing, the range for the PayPass application on NFC phones will be shorter than the 4-centimeter range for cards.

In addition, before any rollout, MasterCard will have to certify all SWP-enabled NFC phones that consumers might use to tap to pay with PayPass.

"Since the antenna is in the phone, it affects the read range of the device and hence the consumer experience using PayPass," James Anderson, MasterCard’s head of mobile product development, told NFC Times in an e-mail.

He added that MasterCard’s mobile PayPass specification that Gemalto has implemented adds new features compared with cards. These features will contribute to the "long-term appeal of the mobile form factor for contactless payments," Anderson said.

He didn’t elaborate, but Gemalto in its press release said that among the features its mobile PayPass implementation offers is enabling consumers to set their mobile PIN codes through their phones. Consumers could use these PINs to secure top-ups of prepaid PayPass accounts directly on the phone, for example.

Gemalto said the mobile PayPass application covers all card portfolios, including credit and debit applications. Gemalto's software application also "embeds" a trusted Service management interface for PayPass, which Gemalto claims enables mobile account issuance and over-the-air management.

But while Gemalto also is serving as TSM for Barclaycard for the planned early-summer NFC launch in the United Kingdom, the vendor’s SIM cards would need to be accessible to other TSMs to download and manage PayPass applications.

In any case, MasterCard’s first certification of mobile PayPass on a SIM is a milestone. To date, the only mobile-contactless products certified by a major card brand are microSD cards and related accessories approved by Visa Inc. starting last December for use with some Apple, BlackBerry and Android smartphones. U.S.-based vendor DeviceFidelity produces the cards and accessories.

Visa and MasterCard are also expected to certify embedded secure chips in NFC phones to carry their contactless applications. The card brands have already approved passive stickers, which consumers can attach to the backs of phones.

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