First commercial launch of NFC m-wallet seen happening this year

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The first commercial launch by mobile operators of m-wallet services through near field communications (NFC) technology will take place in Brazil this year, the GSM Association's (GSMA) NFC project leader, Mustafa Al-Mansur, told BNamericas.

Al-Mansur did not reveal which carrier will take the first step, but "it is one of Brazil's major ones," he said on the sidelines of the GSMA Mobile NFC conference held in São Paulo.

"We really believe this type of service will grow and become a success in the Brazilian market," he said during the event.

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Not without some challenges, though. Handset manufacturers, banks and operators, which have all been running trials on the technology, are optimistic but still cautious about the success of NFC m-wallet services in the country.

Manufactures present at the event said they are ready to include NFC technology in their devices, but are refraining from doing so until operators show their intention to offer such services to customers. The operators, in turn, are concerned about not having enough demand and not finding sufficient penetration with payment mechanisms, terminals and retailers.

BlackBerry maker RIM's mobile wallet department executive Frank Maduri said the company intends to include the technology in its entire BlackBerry portfolio. The Canadian manufacturer already has the Bold 9900 and Curve 9360 smartphones as SIM-based NFC smartphones, certified by MasterCard and Visa.

Visa has also recently certified Samsung and ZTE smartphones.

"We have two main obstacles here - first, increasing the penetration of NFC terminals, and second, teaching the user how to use it," Maduri said.

The opinion is shared by other manufactures. Samsung Brasil executive Robson Lisboa said: "Our main challenge, as with all the players in this market, is to popularize the technology. The company has NFC-enabled devices ready to run, but it's waiting for the necessary market demand to produce them in the country."

Another point highlighted by the players is "educating" the customer regarding NFC's advantages and benefits, as well as the security of mobile banking transactions.

"How are we going to convince the customer, the end user, of the benefits and wonders of m-wallet operations? There's still resistance, though it is waning," noted ZTE commercial manager Celso Pagotti.


One possible solution brought up during the event to tackle the issue of terminals and of the customer acceptance is using the installed system, to provide, for instance, m-wallet services in the tap-and-go model on buses by replacing the SIM-based cards with SIM-based mobile phones as the payment model.

At the event, an executive from São Paulo transportation company SPTrans invited operators and manufactures to take part in a tender being prepared by the local government to modernize the card tap-and-go technology in the public transport system.

Operators and manufactures said they would look into the matter.


Some market players present at the conference also said card-payment terminal manufacturers can pose an obstacle to deploying NFC m-wallet services, as they would be one of the first affected by the dissemination of the technology and would end up losing market.