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Singapore telcos hit the road with transit NFC pay service

M1, Singtel, and StarHub offer NFC transit SIM cards to allow subscribers to pay for bus and train rides with their mobile phones, but while Samsung devices are on the list of approved devices, Apple iPhone isn't.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore's three telcos have unveiled plans to offer NFC-enabled service for the country's public transport network, enabling mobile users to pay for their fares using their smartphones.

All three operators issued statements today, alongside a separate release from industry regulator Land Transport Authority (LTA), which announced the completion of a joint pilot conducted between the telcos and local public transport operators, as well as payment service provider EZ-Link. The latter's contactless payment card currently is used by public transport commuters and as a payment option at more than 30,000 locations, including convenience stores, fast food outlets, retail stores, and taxis.

Available today, M1's service would be the first to allow its subscribers to swop their SIM cards for NFC-enabled chips that they could then use on buses and trains island-wide. They could do so at any of the telco's retail outlets, but would need to have compatible devices for the NFC payment to work, including Samsung Galaxy Note Edge 4G+ and Sony Xperia Z. The Apple iPhone was not on the current list of approved devices.

The NFC SIM cards are embedded with EZ-Link purse, which supports specifications under Singapore's own standard Contactless e-Purse Application (CePAS). Upon activating the new SIM cards, mobile users would be able to top up or check the balance of their credit stored in the purse, as well as use their device to pay for other services that support ez-link payments.

Singtel said sale of its transit NFC SIM cards would start in late-April, when subscriber would be able to purchase the chips from its retail stores. A S$5 registration fee for these SIM cards would be waived for a limited time, the operator said.

M1 said its transit SIM card would cost S$37.45, with a service activation fee of S$9.10 that also would be waived until April 30.

StarHub said its NFC transit chips would go on sale at its retail outlets from April 2 and would be priced at S$37.45 for a new SIM, or S$26.75 for a SIM replacement. It added that the "NFC ez-link purse fee" of S$5 would be waived "until further notice".

The telco's head of business strategy Yeong Mun-Ling said: "This development is a step in the right direction towards stimulating digital commerce growth in Singapore. Our world is becoming increasingly digital and we are looking forward to meeting the needs of our mobile customers, who want to do more with their smartphones."

M1 CMO P. Subramaniam also noted: "Transit is the 'killer phone app' Singapore consumers have been looking forward to and we are pleased to be the first to offer customers the convenience of making payment with the one device that is always with them, their phone."

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