Singapore inches closer to mobile wallet

Government appoints consortium to develop NFC infrastructure and payment services; estimates consumers can purchase with their mobile phones at 20,000 unique points by mid-2012.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Singapore is another step closer to making purchases via near-field communication (NFC)-enabled phones a reality for its population, with the government pledging that 20,000 retail points and taxis island-wide would accept mobile payment from mid-2012.

In an announcement Tuesday, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said it has appointed a consortium to develop NFC infrastructure and mobile wallet services, following a call-for-collaboration (CFC) exercise.

The consortium comprises Gemalto, which will build and operate the infrastructure; Citibank; DBS Bank; contactless payment company EZ-Link; SingTel; M1; and StarHub. Together with IDA, they will invest S$40 million (US$31.5 million) to deploy the backbone and over 10 NFC mobile payment and value-added services.

According to IDA, DBS, EZ-Link and Citibank will enable a wide range of their credit, debit and stored value cards to be issued over-the-air through Gemalto's infrastructure. These payment products will be stored on secure chips in NFC-enabled mobile phones, so that consumers can use them to make purchases at NFC-ready points.

NFC-enabled phones refer to handsets that have built-in NFC chips or non-NFC capable phones equipped with a bridging device, which can be purchased from mobile operators.

Businesses can tap NFC
As for merchants, they would need to ensure their payment terminals are able to accept Visa or Mastercard payment, or support Singapore's Cepas standard, said IDA. They can also work with point-of-sale terminal providers to develop NFC-based features such as customer reward and loyalty redemption services, it added.

Gemalto will also work with service providers to deploy NFC mobile value-added services such as interactive digital signage advertising, mobile coupons and mobile ticketing that users can interact with or download, the ICT regulator said.

In a separate statement Tuesday, SingTel's vice president of consumer products Chan Yim Leng noted that enterprises can adopt NFC technology for automated employee identity validation too, thereby removing the need for staff access or punch cards.

The executive of Singapore's largest mobile operator added that it is looking to adapt its mobile apps to the NFC environment, citing its ILoveDeals location-based shopping app and deF!ND mobile digital concierge app as two examples.

IDA's CFC marks the first time all three local mobile operators have come together for an NFC effort, having initiated separate pilots between 2007 and 2009.

The government had said in 2009 it would set up an interoperable Trusted Third-Party infrastructure as a foundation for innovative NFC services.

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