Mobile phone near-field communications (NFC) could be the next step for Australia’s debit payment network, EFTPOS, after it deploys micro-chipped ‘EMV’ cards next year.
EFTPOS managing director Bruce Mansfield said the network was monitoring industry discussions about NFC standards and specifications before deciding when to make a move.
“Today, there’s not really an agreement comprehensively on those [NFC] specifications,” he said, in advance of the Payments Australia conference in July.
“We need to make sure there are common standards across the likes of Visa, MasterCard, Optus and Vodafone.”
Mansfield said EFTPOS’s technology partners – global organisations that he declined to identify – were involved in various NFC standards-development efforts.
One such effort was coordinated by the international GSM Association, which counted 800 telcos, including Telstra, as members.
EFTPOS’s deployment of mobile NFC hinged on its move to the EMV standard, expected to occur by 2012.
Mansfield said the progression to EMV was going smoothly, although there was more work to be done on issuing and acquiring the technology.
EMV cards will replace magnetic strip technology that has been in use since the 1980s.
When asked how long the new smart cards would likely last, Mansfield was philosophical: “The question is, how long will the plastic card be around.”
In recent years, EFTPOS competitors MasterCard and Visa have completed separate Australian trials of mobile NFC in collaboration with NAB, Commonwealth and ANZ banks.
The trials utilised the card companies’ payWave and PayPass point-of-sale terminals, typically used to process contactless credit card payments.
While Mansfield expressed an interest in contactless mobile phone payments, he questioned the benefits of contactless cards in a blog post earlier this month.
Visa and MasterCard touted the technology as an alternative to cash, but Mansfield argued that there was “no tangible difference in time between contactless cards and an EFTPOS transaction”.
He explained that contactless payment methods would have to be ubiquitous, fast, convenient and safe, noting, “I don’t think the current solutions deliver that on the merchant side”.
Mansfield declined to disclose when EFTPOS would begin trialling or implementing NFC, noting that it was a “secondary priority” after the EMV rollout, which was expected to reduce the incidence of fraud.
He said the network was also looking into accepting card-not-present payments – like those performed over the phone or internet – as competition with international credit card companies heated up.
“Visa and MasterCard have clearly recognised that the future of their business is in debit,” he said, referring to the card providers’ scheme debit cards.
He said EFTPOS welcomed competition, noting that it would be up to the various payment networks and their telco partners to differentiate future mobile NFC offerings.