Westpac trials Near Field payments

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Westpac trials Near Field payments

Telcos await financial sector commitments.

Westpac has become the latest of Australia's big four banks to trial contactless mobile phone payment technology.

The bank intends to conduct an internal near field communications (NFC) trial later this month to shed light on customer and merchant experiences.

As there were few NFC-enabled phones on the market, employees would be supplied with microchipped “stickers”.

Merchants could process these payments via existing contactless terminals, currently used for Visa payWave and MasterCard’s PayPass cards.

A Westpac spokesman declined to identify any external parties involved in the trial and further details of the sticker technology.

The trial followed a similar exercise by Visa and the ANZ Bank in March, for which 50 staff from the two companies used NFC-enabled iPhone cases to pay for transactions worth under $100.

Sam Qubrosi, ANZ’s head of product management and unsecured lending, said participants had responded positively to the four-week trial.

“It's still early days as we've just completed the trial and are still analysing all the data, but this is an extremely exciting piece of innovative technology,” he told iTnews.

“We're looking forward to seeing how we can implement it for our customers in the future.”

According to Telstra’s national general manager of financial services, Rocky Scopelliti, it would be up to the banks to bring mobile phone payment technology to Australia.

Speaking with iTnews in advance of the Payments Australia conference in July, Scopelliti was confident that “the Australian market is ready to adopt mobile NFC, SIM-based services”.

In early 2008, Telstra, Visa and the National Australia Bank (NAB) issued 200 staff with Sagem-Orga’s NFC-enabled SIM cards and compatible Sagem mobile phones.

The Commonwealth Bank and MasterCard also trialled NFC that year.

NAB trial participants linked the SIM cards to their bank accounts, and made payments via a custom application that allowed users to initiate payments and manage accounts.

Those SIM cards could also be partitioned to securely store information like frequent flyer details and club memberships. The service could also easily be cancelled if the device was lost.

But although 95 percent of participants reported being “satisfied” with the trial, Scopelliti said Telstra would not deploy NFC-enabled SIM cards without further commitment from the industry.

“The important precedent to the mobile phone becoming the payment method is really to do with consumer and merchant education,” he said.

“It’s pointless for us to be working in advance of that if applications don’t exist today.”

Scopelliti said Telstra had an “ongoing consultation process” with financial institutions and the international GSM Association to coordinate global standards and deployments.

A Westpac spokesman declined to comment on any discussions with telcos, stating only that “Westpac is looking forward to offering NFC payment technology to its customers”.

Juniper Research last month reported that one in five smartphones worldwide would have NFC functionality by 2014, with North American and European markets accounting for three-quarters of those devices.

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