Will the European MNOs Stay in the NFC Wallet Game?

NFC payments are evolving as a result of network providers enabling their NFC wallet services to make payments via smartphones. Vodafone Wallet, which had earlier enabled users in certain European countries to add loyalty cards to the Vodafone Wallet, has moved a step further by enabling customers in the Netherlands to add a Visa credit card to their wallets. With this service, customers in the Netherlands will be able to make NFC payments with a mobile version of a credit card. Visa cards issued by International Card Services (ICS) can be added to the Vodafone wallet, which operates on smartphones via NFC SIM cards.

Vodafone enabled customers to add loyalty cards to the wallet and pay via Vodafone SmartPass contactless payments. Vodafone SmartPass service enables customers to pay for transactions within 25 euros by simply touching their mobile phone at a contactless terminal with a V Pay logo. For transactions above 25 euros, passcode verification is required. This service was launched in partnership with Visa in 2013. Vodafone wallet service is now available in Germany, Spain, the UK, Italy and The Netherlands.

Vodafone Netherlands is also currently testing NFC payments for public transport systems. The test is being conducted with NFC based systems and NFC SIM cards, onto which the public transport card is loaded. Vodafone is working with Trans Link systems and Amsterdam public transport operator to conduct the test, which if successful, will be followed by a broader pilot test with around 100 people in Amsterdam. This will allow the participants to check in and out of buses using their smartphones. Check-in status will be displayed on the participant's phone.

A few other European mobile network operators offering NFC wallet services:

Magyar Telekom, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, launched its NFC mobile wallet service Mobil Tarca in partnership with OTP Bank, MasterCard, SuperShop and InterTicket. The Wallet service allows customers to download virtual debit cards and make payments at more than 38,000 contactless terminals across Hungary. It also enables customers to exchange SuperShop loyalty points and pay for concert and theatre show events.

The German Telecommunications company, E-plus, launched its NFC enabled mobile wallet service that allows customers to collect and redeem loyalty points and discount vouchers using QR codes.

Orange S.A, a French Telecommunications company, launched its NFC enabled mobile wallet service Orange Cash in partnership with VISA in 2014. Orange Cash consists of a Visa prepaid card that customers can refill and use on their NFC enabled smartphones. It enables users to view real-time transactions and check their account balances. The app’s GPS function allows retailers to share information about exclusive offers and discounts.

Although European MNOs are taking initiatives towards enabling NFC based digital wallet services, whether they can maintain the pace remains to be seen.