Etisalat, MTN, Zain in Pay-Buy-Mobile Handsets Trials in Nigeria

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Etisalat, MTN, Zain and 42 other global GSM network operators are currently carrying out trials that will lead to the commercial use of mobile phones to buy and pay for goods in shops and at other commercial points.

The success of the trials and the commercial application of the project will further push the concept of mobile commerce and bring about more closely the much touted cashless society.

Other GSM operators, who have joined in the trial covering countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Turkey and USA include AT&T, Brasil Celcom, Telecom Chunghwa, Telecom CMCC, Orange, Vodafone, Telecom Italia, Swisscom and TelefÛnica O2.

Trials are not taking place in Nigeria yet but Nigerian operators involved in the pilot project are expected to provide the service to Nigerian users once the service is perfected and it is put to commercial use.

The trial, currently tagged 'Pay- Buy- Mobile Initiative', is being initiated by the GSM Association (GSMA), the global trade group for the mobile industry.

Already the GSMA has called for full Near Field Communications (NFC) functionality - including the standardised 'Single Wire Protocol' interface - to be built into commercially available mobile handsets from mid-2009, in order to ensure that consumers can reap the benefits of mobile payment services as soon as possible.

The GSMA's Board - in a meeting in November held in China - fully supports the need for the ETSI endorsed 'Single Wire Protocol' standard to provide the interface between the Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC, or SIM card) and the embedded NFC chipset within the handset.

The NFC chip can communicate with existing contact less reader to deliver a wide range of secure, interoperable and transparent services, such as credit and debit payments. A series of operator trials - under the GSMA's 'Pay-Buy-Mobile' initiative - have demonstrated that consumers can use UICC-based NFC handsets to quickly, easily and securely pay for goods and services in shops, restaurants and train stations.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GSMA, Rob Conway, said in a statement, "There is no doubt that there is a huge latent demand for a large variety of mobile transaction services, of which there is universal interest in proximity payments, as trials across the world have already shown. We are committed to ensuring that mobile payment services are delivered as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

But this will require device manufacturers to make sure that the vast majority of commercially available handsets incorporate the Single Wire Protocol and Near Field Communications features as standard."

"Doing so would enable the industry to leverage significant economies of scale, and ensure greater accessibility of NFC services for mobile users, added Conway."

This call for handsets is supported by recent operator trial results, which indicate a growing consumer demand for mobile payment services. Trials are underway across eight countries involving nine mobile operators as part of the GSMA's Pay-Buy-Mobile initiative. Further pilots are planned across 14 countries by 15 mobile operators.

In Taiwan, in a trial of over 200 users, FarEasTone found that 90 per cent of people felt positive toward the new service. 80 per cent of people were satisfied that the service is secure, and 40 per cent said they would switch their monthly spending to a mobile credit card service.

Seven banks and four mobile operators - including Orange and SFR - involved in the "Payez Mobile" trial in France have announced the results of trials conducted with almost 500 sales outlets and nearly 1000 trial lists.

Over 90 per cent of trial lists said they found contact less mobile payment convenient, fast, and easy to use. In addition, 94 per cent declared that they would recommend it to their friends and family. Merchants welcomed the possibility of offering to their customers an innovative payment solution, with over 80% saying they appreciated the speed and cutting-edge appeal of mobile contact less payment.

Equally, in Korea, SKT and KTF found that m-transportation was very popular with users, and this is likely to translate to other mobile payment services. Approximately 450,000 users of the "T-money" service were quick to adopt the service as it is convenient and compatible with existing readers.

According to KTF's survey, 85 per cent of m-transportation users indicated satisfaction levels were 'very high'. 80 per cent of them believe that using a contact less mobile phone is much more convenient than getting their wallet out to use public transportation, and would continue to use the mobile service. "T-money" attracts users not only for the public metro and bus, but also for small transactions such as buying goods from convenient stores by simply tapping on the contact less reader.

In July the GSMA on behalf of operators issued a detailed Device Requirement document to a wide range of vendors and suppliers in the 'Pay-Buy-Mobile' ecosystem. 37 key players responded, giving a clear picture of the core requirements for any SWP/NFC device.

According to AT&T Senior Vice President, Architecture and Planning Kris Rinne, one of the first operators to trial mobile payments, "we've seen first-hand, the willingness of consumers to adapt to this new payment channel which is very much dependent on the availability of NFC handsets and the associated ecosystem. We hope that the GSMA's delivery of a consolidated set of minimum requirements will accelerate the worldwide delivery of NFC-enabled handsets to the market."

"We observed great potential for mobile payment services through T-money. We believe it is changing the behaviour of users and expect it to see significantly increasing demand over time. Supportive actions and collaborations with banks and especially handset vendors will help to speed up this demand," said Sang Ryul Lee, VP of Transaction Business Group, KTF, a leading HSPA operator in Korea.

Mung-Ki Woo, VP Payment and Contact less at Orange, said, "Orange has run trials in France, Spain and the UK which show a consistent appeal to consumers in all countries for SIM-based, operator managed, mobile NFC services. For Orange, mass deployment is now mainly dependent on handset manufacturers providing a large range of adequate handsets."

Dr. Nikolai Dobberstein, Head of Products and New Businesses of Maxis Communications, said, "As Malaysia's leading mobile operator, Maxis is very enthusiastic about enabling mobile payments via NFC and leveraging the growing contact-less payment infrastructure in Malaysia. We are collaborating with strong partners on this initiative, Maybank and Visa International and our focus is to establish a mobile NFC eco-system for commercialization which provides Malaysian customers with accessible & easy to use mobile payments."

"We are pleased to be part of this pioneering and innovative project trial as it will further simplify payment transactions and in the long run, help spur the growth of mobile commerce our country.

Independent Lagos