Singapore To Deploy National NFC Mobile-Payments Platform

Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority has put together an industry group to develop a system under which consumers may pay for taxi fares and small purchases with their mobile phones.

The system will be in place by mid-2012 at 20,000 retail locations and taxis and will cost a total of S$40 million (US$32 million or 23 million euros), according to the announcement issued Oct. 25. The Singapore government and the seven companies involved will provide the money. A detailed investment breakdown was not released.

The industry group includes Singapore’s three mobile operators, as well as Citibank Singapore Ltd. and Gemalto Pte. Ltd., a digital security company based in the Netherlands. Gemalto is one of the global leaders in digital security, with more than 10,000 employees in 45 countries.

Gemalto will be developing and deploying a “trusted services manager” service to securely manage the mobile NFC services that will be available–payments, ticketing, loyalty programs and a “smart poster” that allows consumers to interact with advertisements.

However, the system will not be proprietary and incompatible with platforms used elsewhere in the world, says Yvonne Lim, Gemalto’s marketing communications director for Asia-Pacific.

“The Singapore NFC infrastructure will be able to support major payment schemes like Amex, Visa and MasterCard,” she tells PaymentsSource.

Merchants can participate as long as they have payment terminals that accept contactless payment cards from MasterCard or Visa, the Infocomm Development Authority said in its announcement, or if they support Singapore’s own Contactless e-Purse Application payment standard.

“Support for more payment schemes will be added over time,” the organization says.

Singapore is frequently at the leading edge of mobile development. According to a joint study by Google and Ipsos release last month, Singapore has the world’s highest smart phone penetration, at 61%.

Singapore also is known for charting its own path, says Neil Katkov, senior vice president for Asia at Boston-based research firm Celent.

“The Singapore government typically promotes the development of proprietary Singapore-only standards as a means of promoting technology development in Singapore, and the awarding of contracts to Singapore companies,” he tells PaymentsSource. “The government is very open about the goals of this policy.”

Then he added, “I don’t mean ‘promotes’–it’s really ‘mandates.’”

By comparison, other countries are letting the market determine the evolution of mobile payments. For example, Australia’s Commonwealth Bank just announced a mobile-payments platform (see story).

A spokesperson from the Infocomm Development Authority declined to comment, explaining that government approvals were necessary before issuing any communications.

Read full article at PaymentsSource.