S'pore govt to 'facilitate' interoperable NFC

Country's ICT regulator says it will help push interoperability for a trusted near field communications system, and promote innovative services to users and businesses.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor on

To accelerate the development of near field communication (NFC) in Singapore, the government will facilitate the development of a trusted backbone--a concept that has the buy-in of industry stakeholders.

In a statement Wednesday, Singapore's ICT regulator, the Infocomm Development Authority, said it would facilitate the establishment of an interoperable infrastructure, or a Trusted Third-Party (TTP) backbone. This would serve as the foundation for innovative NFC services, it noted.

According to the Authority, interoperability will allow subscribers of any telco to have access to NFC services offered by any service provider. Ubiquitous access by consumers will in turn spur businesses to deploy NFC services, it said, adding that initial services would be in the area of transportation and payment.

Citing a consultancy study it conducted last year, the IDA noted that a fully interoperable NFC ecosystem would generate a market that is eight times that of a non-interoperable environment. The study also concluded that an estimated that S$60 million (US$39.3 million) annually could be derived from NFC mobile payments and advertising in Singapore, during the early adoption phase.

The IDA also held a roundtable last month, which saw participation from 11 industry players including telcos and payment providers. The representatives agreed to have the TTP act as a neutral single point of contact for all banks, payment providers and telcos.

"IDA sees interoperability as a key success factor for NFC and is pleased that all the NFC Roundtable members share the same conviction," IDA CEO Ronnie Tay said in the statement. "Beyond transit and mobile payments, IDA will continue to work with the industry to support development of innovative services to create a rich user experience for consumers and businesses."

Two of the country's mobile operators, SingTel and StarHub, have held NFC trials prior to the announcement.

Ying Lai Chang, SingTel Mobile's vice president of consumer products, said in the statement that the benefits and convenience of NFC were "evident" based on feedback on the trial.

Nicolas Lee, executive director of EZ-Link, also noted positive feedback of its trial with StarHub. With the collective efforts of the IDA and industry, NFC services will be positively received by mobile phone users, he added.

Going forward, the IDA said it will "facilitate industry collaborations in the establishment of the TTP", as well as in the deployment of NFC payment services. It will also aid the adoption of contactless payment standards such as Cepas, Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass.

Mobile payment gains momentum in Australia
Separately Wednesday, Visa reported that Australia's contactless mobile phone payment trial had exceeded expectations. Visa together with Telstra and the National Australia Bank, its partners in the trial, would work toward commercialization of the technology, the payment provider added.

According to Visa, 90 percent of trial participants said they were very or extremely satisfied with contactless mobile phone payment, while 95 percent indicated they would use the technology in future.

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