StarHub begins public NFC trial

update Singapore mobile operator launches a six-month public trial of contactless payment with 1,000 subscribers, ahead of archrival SingTel.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor
A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.

update SINGAPORE--Mobile operator StarHub announced today its first public trial of a new mobile payment service based on near-field communication (NFC) technology.

First announced in September, the six-month wireless payment trial involves 1,000 StarHub mobile phone subscribers and taps on the islandwide network of 20,000 acceptance points operated by its partner EZ-Link.

Trial participants have been selected from some 2,600 applicants and will be given SZ1.0 handsets from Singapore phone manufacturer iWOW, said StarHub at a media conference here.

The wireless service is delivered via mobile phones embedded with an EZ-Link chip, which supports e-purse capabilities, and an NFC-enabled chip which enables users to obtain information, such as discount coupons from "smart posters" with embedded NFC chips. Data gets downloaded into the user's phone via GPRS once the phone is tapped on these posters. StarHub is tying up with partners such as Citibank and Golden Village to provide this service for the trial.

The Singapore mobile operator is optimistic about the user response, noting that EZ-Link's network of NFC-readers will create a huge draw.

Anil Nihalani, StarHub's vice president of mobile services, said: "The key is in the huge number of NFC acceptance points involved. That makes this service extremely attractive to both merchants and users."

StarHub's public trial comes ahead of a similar plan by its archrival. Last month, SingTel announced a partnership with Network for Electronic Transfers of Singapore (Nets) to trial their NFC service internally over three months until the end of 2007, before initiating a six-month public trial next year.

Nets operates about 1,200 contactless terminals islandwide, a number that is targeted to increase to 2,000 by the end of the year.

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