'Olympics Phone' to Vie for Spot in Telcos’ NFC Lineups

The two UK mobile operators that have announced plans to launch NFC services this year, Everything Everywhere and Telefónica O2 UK, are not yet committing to awarding the planned "Olympics Phone" from Visa Europe and Samsung Electronics a spot in their NFC lineups for next year, but they will at least give the phone an internal tryout.

Visa and Samsung announced they will introduce an NFC phone in the run-up to the Summer Olympic Games in London next year. They said the handset will support a Visa payWave payment application on SIM cards.

That will no doubt be a requirement by the telcos, which Visa is counting on to sell many of the phones before and during the 2012 Olympics. Both Everything Everywhere and O2 UK have made it clear they plan to roll out secure NFC services, such as payment, on SIM cards, which they control. 

Visa and Samsung, both Olympics sponsors, plan to introduce the phone first in the United Kingdom, then elsewhere. But they have released few other details about the handset, including how they will brand it–although a photo Visa released as a mock-up shows a "Visa Mobile" screen on what appears to be an earlier Samsung NFC phone.

All Visa and Samsung have said is that they will provide the phone to sponsored athletes and will also make it available to consumers in the United Kingdom and then around the world. They say they will work with banks and mobile operators to introduce the handset. 

"More details will be announced in due course as Visa and Samsung continue to facilitate discussions amongst local partners," Mary Carol Harris, vice president, innovation and new product and channel development, mobile, for Visa Europe, told NFC Times in a statement, referring to the device as the "Olympics Phone." "The power of this alliance is in pooling Visa's and Samsung's respective sponsorship assets to create something unique in the run-up to and during the games."

Everything Everywhere, a joint venture between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK, and the largest mobile operator in the United Kingdom, is partnering with  credit card issuer and acquirer Barclaycard, along with MasterCard Worldwide, for its NFC launch in early summer. But the telco has said it will work with other banks and presumably other card schemes to put their payment applications onto its SIM cards.

Karen Walsh, head of financial services for Everything Everywhere, told NFC Times that decisions on devices are continuing, adding that "we are working with a number of partners including devices, merchants, banks and schemes to ensure that we continue to build on the momentum of our first to market launch of mobile payments in Q2 this year."

O2 UK, which is planning to issue its own payment applications, though perhaps those supporting the Visa brand, told NFC Times through a spokeswoman that it also sees the Olympics as a key driver for building awareness among consumers for contactless and NFC services and generally supports “initiatives to bring NFC technology to the Olympics.”

"We will look at the detail of the Visa-Samsung announcement, but we are delighted to see a SIM-based NFC solution, which in our opinion will provide the best and most secure option for consumers."

Both telcos are expected to have a range of other NFC handsets on sale by the time the Olympics rolls around in late July 2012. They are expected to want their brands to be displayed prominently on their subscribers’ NFC phone screens. 


Australian Transit Agency to Launch Mobility-as-a-Service Trial as It Pursues Long-Term MaaS Strategy

Plans by Transport for New South Wales, Australia’s largest transit agency, to launch a trial enabling users to plan, book and pay for multimodal rides is the next step toward the agency’s long-ter

Updated: U.S. Transit Agency Seeks to Reduce–Though Not Eliminate–Cash Acceptance with New Fare-Collection System

Updated: The Spokane Transit Authority in Washington state confirmed that its new fare-collection system will include contactless open-loop payments–with a beta test planned for next October, a spokesman told NFC Times' sister publication Mobility Payments.

UK Government Seeks to Bring London-Style Contactless Fare Payments System to Other Regions

The UK government’s plan to equip 700 rail stations over the next three years to accept contactless open-loop payments is a major initiative, as it seeks to replicate the success of London’s contactless pay-as-you go fare payments system elsewhere in the country–a goal that has proved elusive in the past.

More Cities in Finland Expected to Move to Open-Loop Fare Payments

A fourth city in Finland is beginning to roll out contactless open-loop payments, with “more in the pipeline,” according to one supplier on the project, making the Nordic country one of the latest hotspots for the technology.

Moscow Metro Expands Test of ‘Virtual Troika’ in Pays Wallets, as It Continues to Develop Digital-Payments Services

Moscow Metro is recruiting more users to test its “Virtual Troika” card in two NFC wallets, those supporting Google Pay and Samsung Pay, as one of the world’s largest subway operators continues to seek more ways for its customers to pay for rides.

Ohio Transit Agency Expects Significant Revenue Loss as it Builds Equity with Fare Capping

The Central Ohio Transit Authority, or COTA, officially launched its new digital-payments service Monday, including a fare-capping feature that the agency estimates will cost it $1.8 million per year in lost fare revenue, the agency confirmed to Mobility Payments.

Special Report: Interest Grows in ‘White-Label EMV’ for Closed-Loop Transit Cards

As more transit agencies introduce open-loop fare payments, interest is starting to grow in use of white-label EMV cards that agencies can issue in place of proprietary closed-loop cards for riders who don’t have bank cards or don’t want to use them to pay fares.

Swedish Transit Agency Launches Express Mode Feature for Apple Pay, though Most Ticketing Still with Barcode-Based App

Skånetrafiken, the transit agency serving one of Sweden’s largest counties, announced today it has expanded its contactless open-loop payments service to include the Express Mode feature for Apple Pay.

Major Bus Operators in Hong Kong Now Accepting Open-Loop Payments–Adding More Competition for Octopus

Two more bus operators in Hong Kong on Saturday launched acceptance of open-loop contactless fare payments, with both also accepting QR code-based mobile ticketing–as the near ubiquitous closed-loop Octopus card continues to see more competition.

Moscow Metro Launches Full Rollout of ‘Face Pay;’ Largest Biometric Payments Service of Its Kind

Touting it as the largest rollout of biometric payments in the world, Moscow Metro launched its high-profile “Face Pay” service Friday, as expected, and predicted that 10% to 15% would regularly us

Indonesian Capital Seeks to Expand to Multimodal Fare Collection and MaaS

Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, whose metropolitan area is home to more than 30 million people, is notorious for its stifling traffic congestion. In response, the government metro and light-rail networks and now it is funding an expansion of the fare-collection system to enable more multimodal payments and to build a mobility-as-a-service platform.

Exclusive: NFC Wallets Grow as Share of Contactless Fare Payments and Not Only Because of Covid

Transit agencies that have rolled out open-loop contactless payments are seeing growing use of NFC wallets to pay fares, as Covid-wary passengers see convenience in tapping their phones or wearables to pay.