If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. It's up to you, France, France...
Europeans were getting jalous of their Asian counterparts : while NTT DoCoMo, KTF or SK Telecom could do whatever they wanted in the finance area, European operators were caught in a stalemate with powerful financial institutions.
And nowhere was the issue more sensible than in France, home to the GIE Carte Bleue, the powerful lobby that brought you Moreno's smartcard but delayed the emergence of contactless and mobile payments for more years than needed.
So make no mistake : the "Payez mobile" trial is a turning point likely to set the pace for the continent and well beyond.
It just started (1,000 testers and 200 merchants expected overall in the cities of Strasbourg and Caen) with an aggressive TTM for full launch (2008). It will make more headlines during the Cartes & IDentification 2007 exhibition between the 13rd and the 15th of November in Villepinte.
The casting couldn't be much better :
- all 3 MNOs (Orange*, SFR, Bouygues Telecom), the most bank-compatible M-VNO (NRJ Mobile, a JV involving CIC bank, which already tried the concept earlier),
- the elite of French banks (BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole including LCL, Credit Mutuel-CIC Group, Caisse d'Epargne, La Banque Postale and Societe Generale), and
- the World's dominant credit cards (Visa, Europay / Mastercard), both sponsor members of the NFC Forum
Not to mention the French Government : this trial is under the umbrella of the regional TES cluster (Secure Electronic Transactions), which will certainly help this initiative play a key role in standardization at the European level (cf SEPA - The Single Euro Payments Area project).
On the technical side, another eminent member of the NFC Forum, Gemalto-Oberthur, provided the SIM cards and software.
Because this is SIM-based NFC. At a secured crossroads where both banks and operators put a lock on their valuable consumers.
This is about micropayments and the substitution of cash and the unsuccessful Moneo smartcard by the most personal and popular device, but who cares about handset manufacturers for such a trial ? No need to put those guys in a loop banks and operators took so long to weave.
Secured crossroads, double locks and narrow loops... the tie is tightly knotted around the customer's neck, but also between partners bound to cohabit on a tiny chip. Let's do business over the counter first - over the network is another story.
Let us not forget about that other success story of mobile payment, much less violent and involving Vodafone and Safaricom in Africa : M-PESA, a smart and simple but literally peer to peer system perfectly adapted to places where no banker ever set a foot (don't expect to communicate with one in your nearest field, nor even dozens of miles away), and where the very concept of metropolitan area network doesn't make much sense.
* France Telecom intends to keep the edge in certain strategical fields : they led the first trials in Rennes back in 2005 and are just starting another one in the same city for 2 months with 35 users. Main application : public transportations (bus and subway operated by the SNCF and Keolis). Bonus : a Tag 2D application (NFC chip on SNCF posters for passengers or ad viewers to download informations).