South African bank and local mobile operator Vodacom along with other participants are set to run what they claim is the country’s first trial of NFC-based mobile payment services. The trial will use NFC-enabled microSD cards that will be fitted into users’ handsets including BlackBerrys (RIM is also a participant) rather than NFC-based handsets. The exercise will involve 500 participants in two locations, Absa and Vodacom’s respective headquarters. Other partners include MasterCard, South Africa’s department of transport and Vivotech, the payment technology vendor. The trial starts later this month.
Absa says public transport has the potential to be a major market for NFC-based payments in addition to retail purchases. By the middle of next year the bank says it will have deployed 4,000 terminals capable of processing NFC-based payments. Arrie Rautenbach, Absa’s head of retail markets, told NFC World that the early stages of the trial are to “facilitate low-value payments in retail and transit". Later, he promised, “exciting new forms of mobile payment” would be made available. Absa and Vodacom first unveiled their partnership three months ago. In addition to NFC, the two companies also said they would work together on mobile banking services that utilised the USSD channel on cellular networks to deliver services to subscribers.