New Zealand Telcos and Bank-Owned Processor Plan NFC Joint Venture

Apr 3 2012

New Zealand’s three mobile operators and its bank-owned payments processor have announced plans to form a joint venture to launch a centralized trusted service manager for the rollout of NFC services.

Vodafone New Zealand, Telecom New Zealand and 2degrees, along with processor Paymark, are the latest group of telcos to announce plans for a joint venture to help them roll out NFC services.

They follow U.S. carriers, which formed the Isis joint venture in 2010. Telcos in several other countries, in some cases joined by banks or other payments players, are planning joint ventures around NFC mobile phones and wallets. They include several in Europe, such as UK telcos Everything Everywhere, Telefónica (O2) UK and Vodafone UK, which are awaiting a key ruling by European Union competition authorities that could be announced as early as next week.

In New Zealand, the joint venture would mainly be focused on forming a trusted service manager, or TSM, to handle the download and management of applications on NFC phones, according to an announcement today. The JV, like those planned in other countries, would likely also set specifications for other parts of an NFC platform, including specifications for a standard wallet and guidelines for how payment applications will work in the phones.

Vodafone New Zealand, which last fall launched an employee NFC trial with the Bank of New Zealand, reportedly said it expects to launch NFC in mid-2013. UPDATE: A spokesperson for the initiative told NFC Times that exactly when the NFC services launch have yet to be determined, but plans definitely call for launches in 2013, with "market activity" to begin before the end of 2012. END UPDATE.

Vodafone also said it would use SIM cards as the secure element to store payment and other secure applications. The Bank of New Zealand, along with three other major banks in the country, ASB, Westpac and ANZ National, own Paymark.

New Zealand has about 4.7 million mobile subscriptions, more than 100% penetration for the small country.

The announcement today said that the initiative would enable bank cards, loyalty programs and transport tickets to be loaded onto NFC phones.

UPDATE: The initiative spokesperson said there are only 1,000 contactless-payment terminals in place in New Zealand, but that should reach "critical mass" over the next two to three years. "We anticipate the Visa and Mastercard applications will be among the first provisioned, and we have actively engaged Visa, Mastercard and American Express during our planning process," the spokesperson said. END UPDATE.

As in other countries, the Kiwi telcos see a business case in not only enabling payment, but also delivering coupons, loyalty rewards and other incentives to consumers, for which they could charge fees to banks and merchants.

In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, telcos have banded together in large part to gird for expected competition with such over-the-top players as Google, which has already launched an NFC mobile wallet in the U.S., and others, including a possible mobile wallet from Apple.

But as in other countries, the New Zealand telcos, along with Paymark, in today’s announcement, contend their aim is not to control the NFC ecosystem. It would be open to all banks, mobile operators, loyalty schemes, transport companies and others, they say.

“The TSM is being built with the intention of providing one, open-access, solution for the New Zealand market, to help encourage widespread consumer uptake and avoid customer confusion,” said the statement. “In the telco space, Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees will continue to compete vigorously for customers by developing their own innovative services on top of the open platform infrastructure provided by the TSM.”

It’s not clear whether the proposed joint venture in New Zealand will require the blessing of regulators. The anticipated ruling from the European Commission on the proposed Project Oscar joint venture in the UK, is expected to also affect planned JVs for NFC-based mobile commerce in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Hungary, among others being contemplated in EU countries.

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