Turkey’s Largest Telco Launches NFC, Mainly with Bridge Tech

May 13 2011

Turkey’s largest mobile operator, Turkcell, has announced its long-promised commercial launch of NFC services, though it apparently has only one full NFC phone available so far.

Turkcell’s mobile-wallet service, “Cep-T Cüzdan,” launched in April, featuring a MasterCard PayPass application issued by one of Turkey’s largest privately owned banks, Yapi Kredi. Users are able to tap their phones to pay at about 40,000 merchant terminals in Turkey that accept PayPass, and presumably at PayPass terminals outside the country, as well.

Turkcell is using the Samsung S5230 NFC phone, according to photos the mobile operator released with its announcement Thursday. The 2G feature phone supports secure applications on SIM cards that Turkcell issues.

For customers who don’t have this phone, Turkcell is offering NFC bridge products–flexible antennas connected to SIM cards. These products are supplied by France-based Gemalto and Israel-based On Track Innovations. Users would wrap the antennas on or around their phone batteries to give the handsets an NFC or contactless interface. Gemalto also supplies the NFC-enabled SIMs for the Samsung phones.

Turkcell had pledged to commercially launch NFC before the end of 2010, but among other things, the telco lacked phones. That is still a challenge, of course. It’s not clear how many full Samsung NFC phones or bridge devices Turkcell has put on sale. The operator is using the On Track Innovations, or OTI, product for its own branded handset, the T10. Gemalto’s N-Flex works with other non-NFC handsets.

Turkcell said it has developed the mobile-wallet software for the phones and also said it operates the trusted service management service that can provision the PayPass applications over the air. 

The operator said it plans to open the wallet to other banks and service providers, such as transit operators.

Update: “We have been working with some other Turkish banks to add their applications on our platform," Ergi Sener, Turkcell's mobile wallet project manager, told NFC Times in a statement. "Apart from payment, other service providers operating in different sectors will be available to our subscribers, and Turkcell subscribers will experience the real wallet concept with the convenience of their mobile equivalent.”

He said, for example, Turkcell has an agreement with Bank Asya that would enable drivers to pay highway tolls with NFC service. And the telco has been testing mass-transit applications, to be launched in some big cities. “Loyalty applications are also considered to take place in our service,” he said. End update.

Turkcell and Yapi Kredi earlier this year launched a trial of NFC payment with a Visa payWave application loaded onto a secure chip in an iPhone attachment, iCarte, supplied by Canada-based Wireless Dynamics. The bank and telco were to distribute about 2,000 of the add-ons.

Turkcell and Yapi Kredi are keen to keep up with competitors, especially mobile operator Avea and Garanti bank, which have announced they’ve jointly launched a mobile-payment service that also uses Gemalto’s N-Flex product.

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