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Singapore's operators launch commercial NFC services


SingTel and rival M1 have both launched NFC-based mobile payment services in Singapore. With a launch by Starhub also imminent, the city state is now at the forefront of the commercial deployment of such services.

SingTel's launch, which is in partnership with Singapore’s contactless payment provider EZ-Link, enables users to make payments using their mobile handset at over 20,000 point of sale terminals that accept EZ-Link payments such as taxis, supermarkets and fast food chains.

EZ-Link has also launched its own mobile app and website to accompany the service which works with Android-based NFC handsets. The app enables users to top up a wallet on their smartphones with any debit or credit cards, as well as check transaction history and account balances. In addition to one of the supported NFC handsets, users also need a NFC SIM card from SingTel to access the service.

Initially SingTel's service is supported three NFC handsets: Samsung Galaxy S Advance, Sony Xperia S and Sony Xperia P. Rival M1 says it will offer a range of handsets for its service although it only specifically mentions three: both the Samsung Galaxy S Advance and Sony Xperia S but also the Galaxy S III.

As with SingTel, users will also need an NFC SIM to access M1's service. It also has an agreement so that its users can make payments at merchants which accept EZ-Link. In addition it is offering a MasterCard pre-paid card so that users can also make payments where PayPass is accepted.

Rival operator Starhub announced earlier this month its own plans to launch a NFC-based mobile payment service supported by three cards (DBS Bank, MasterCard and EZ-Link). The service is available on three NFC handsets. Starhub said it will launch later in August.

Although trialled extensively, large-scale commercial launches of NFC-based services are rare, which puts the three Singapore mobile operators at the forefront of current deployments.

SingTel is not charging an additional monthly subscription or one-time activation charge for the mobile payment service. As a temporary offer, customers who sign up for the service before the end of September will be waived a one S$5 administrative fee and also receive a complimentary S$5 to spend in their EZ-Link wallet.

The walleet has an additional feature which is an over-the-air top up so users can increase their pre-paid balance just with their NFC handset and a credit card. M1 offers a similar feature.

SingTel, M1 and Starhub are members of the consortium that has built Singapore’s NFC infrastructure. Other partners include EZ-Link, DBS Bank, Gemalto and Citibank. The model adopted by the regulatory authorities is one of shared infrastructure supporting competing service providers.

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