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Thursday, 19 February 2009 10:51

Pay-by-mobile trial gets the nod

A contactless payment trial using mobile phones instead of cards has proved successful, and may help pave the way for an international scheme for making small payments by waving handsets.

iTWire reported the commencement of the trial last August.

Run by Telstra (Australia's largest carrier), National Australia Bank (NAB, one of the country's 'big four' banks), and Visa, the trial involved 200 people and 12 merchants in the Docklands area of Melbourne where NAB has one of its largest sites.

With a transaction limit of $A35, the idea was to provide quick and convenient payment for purchases such as lunches and magazines.

The trial involved NFC (near field communication) chips inside the participants' phones, along with a Visa payment application stored in the phones' SIMs.

All users had to do was wave their phones over the merchant's reader - a quick and easy process.

A significant aspect of the trial was the ability to block, unblock or delete the application over the air.

Now the results are in, and it seems all parties were pleased with the payment service.

Find out who said what on page 2.

90 per cent of trial participants were very or extremely satisfied with the contactless mobile phone payment system, and impressive 95 percent said they were likely or extremely likely to use this technology in the future.

"Overwhelmingly the trial participants told us that they saw genuine value in the ability to make smaller transactions, such as for coffees and papers, with a wave of the phone rather than fumbling for change," said Telstra enterprise and government group managing director David Thodey.

"Importantly the businesses that took part in the trial were strong supporters of the technology, seeing it as a way to boost their productivity by serving customers faster."

Speed of service is important for customers and merchants alike. If you're just buying a sandwich and a drink, you want to get in and as quickly as possible to avoid wasting your lunch break.

You don't just want your transaction to be handled quickly, you don't want to be held up because everyone in front of you insists on paying by card.

And the quicker each transaction is handled, the more people can be served at busy times, which should mean more profit for the merchant.

The bank seems pretty excited too.

"Now we know that mobile payments can work successfully in a real environment, revealing a strong consumer and merchant demand for such services, we are looking at ways to launch this into the Australian market," said John Salamito, NAB's regional general manager, consumer product solutions.

And Visa's general manager for Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Chris Clark, described the user response as "an extremely strong endorsement [that] validates our belief that mobile payments have the potential to transform the way Australians make everyday payments."

The trial was part of the GSM Association's (GSMA's) pay-by-mobile global initiative. The aim is to allow people to wave their mobiles to pay for small purchases wherever they happen to be in the world.

According to Finextra Research, "The collaboration between NAB, Visa and Telstra provides a good model for future industry roll-outs."

Disclosure: the writer holds NAB shares.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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