Representatives of Westpac and Visa Australia have indicated their support for the rollout of near field communications (NFC), despite some criticism from payment providers.
NFC technology allows for two-way communication between a device and an NFC terminal at a cash register or pay station.
Speaking at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) mobile payments roundtable in Sydney, moderator Michael Walters of Edgar, Dunn and Company, said that the online payment provider had recently referred to NFC as "not for commerce." “Their argument is that it will take a long time to roll out the NFC infrastructure but in the meantime consumers just want to get on with mobile transactions," he said.
PayPal Australia managing director, Frerk-Malte Feller, recently told Computerworld Australia that it was "not yet proven" if NFC was the right technology to use for mobile transactions.
“It never hurts to have more options but I think the technology trends that take off are going to be decided by the consumer experience,” he said.
Visa Australia country manager, Vipin Kalira, said that in certain markets it may take longer to roll out the NFC infrastructure, but some large retailers and merchants in Australia had begun deploying contactless card infrastructure.
“For example, the US has just woken up to contactless payments but the good news is that here in Australia we are charging ahead and deploying contactless infrastructure in a big way,” he said.
Westpac head of merchant acquiring, George Lawson, said that the bank has more than 100,000 payment terminals in Australia which require upgrading to NFC. He added that MasterCard had previously issued a mandate that all terminals needed to be switched over by 2014.
“There is no doubt that NFC is going to succeed. I was in Nice recently, which has been an NFC test ground, and you can go up to statutes and tap your NFC enabled phone to get information about what you’re looking at," Lawson said. "The consumer adoption is going to be driven by more than just the payment element, so we need to get the [NFC] readers out there.”
Westpac has already introduced some NFC capable readers to what Lawson called fast transaction sectors such as convenience stores and service stations, including Caltex, who recently adopted MasterCard's PayPass technology and rolled it out to 387 of its metro stores in Australia.
“In terms of people progressively using NFC, I think it’s a question of when the [mobile] handsets get out there and we get the collaboration from the banks, telecommunication companies and payment providers in Australia," he said.
The endorsement of NFC by Westpac and Visa follows a call by the Communications Council for smartphone manufacturers to release NFC-capable phones in Australia in order to increase adoption of the technology and create new online marketing opportunities .
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