Taiwanese Telco To Deploy NFC ‘Dongles’

TAIPEI – Taiwan’s largest mobile operator, Chunghwa Telecom, plans to issue at least 10,000 NFC "dongles" that subscribers will be able to tap to make retail payments, download coupons, view exhibit information and to ride metro trains and buses.

The dongles will communicate with apps on subscribers’ mobile phones, including those supporting Android, through a Bluetooth connection. But the dongles will not be attached directly to the users’ phones as stickers. Instead, users would wear the dongles around their necks or as key fobs, and the Bluetooth chip in these devices would communicate with the Bluetooth chip in the users’ phones to pass data back and forth.

Chunghwa Telecom, which developed the devices in-house and faced government mandates for the project tied to funding, plans to showcase the technology at the big 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo that starts in November.

The devices will support full NFC, including reader mode for tapping tags, as well as peer-to-peer connections. Users will be able to tap their NFC devices on a total of about 3,000 tags at 40 displays and 30 kiosks at the exhibition.

Secure chips in the dongles will store a MasterCard PayPass application and a Mifare-based EasyCard application, used to ride buses and trains in and around Taipei and to make payments at a growing number of stores.

"We will have big activity for this dongle.," predicted Char-Shin Miou, project manager for NFC Technology and IC card applications for Chunghwa Telecom Laboratories, speaking at a recent Alternative NFC Solutions conference in Taipei organized by the Asia Pacific Smart Card Association.

EasyCard is widely used for transit and is accepted at a growing number of convenience stores and other retail locations in Taipei and elsewhere on the island nation. Miou did not disclose the names of the two banks planning to issue the PayPass application. 

The dongles are seen as a bridge technology until full NFC phones arrive. And Chunghwa Telecom along with EasyCard Corp. had promised the government it would introduce at least 10,000 users to NFC technology this year in return for NT$16 million (US$511,000) funding for a related trusted service management project.

Miou, who is in charge of Chunghwa’s NFC activities, said that from the middle of next year, he expects “suitable” NFC handsets to be on the market. But in response to a question from NFC Times, he said he believes about 10 phone models supporting full NFC would probably be needed for a successful commercial rollout of NFC in Taiwan.

Miou said that while other NFC bridge technologies might be available this fall, they would not have been ready in the quantities the telco needs for the floral expo. 

But the Bluetooth/NFC dongles come with their own challenges, including a requirement for an extra piece of software to be loaded on phones supporting the model's operating system. The communication between the dongle and phone also relies on the Bluetooth application-programming interfaces, or APIs, and these differ according to the operating system. Some models, such as Apple’s iPhone, do not work with the dongles.

Chunghwa Telecom has been among the most active mobile operators testing NFC and has held at least three important trials in the past three years. It is also developing a TSM service, reportedly with some government funding.

The telco in September 2008 launched what is perhaps the largest NFC trial to date worldwide in terms of numbers of phones, a pilot for which the telco said it distributed 6,000 NFC handsets from Taiwanese phone maker BenQ. The phones stored a physical access-control application for a new apartment complex, along with EasyCard and PayPass on a SIM–although the phone did not apparently support the single-wire protocol standard.

But the lack of either full NFC phones or clarity from financial regulators on security requirements for mobile payment, among other reasons, have caused Chunghwa and competing mobile operators Far EasTone and Taiwan Mobile to put their NFC plans on hold.


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.