Mobile payments coming but not ready for prime time: Eftpos, Telstra

It’s still early days for mobile payments and near field communications (NFC) technology, Eftpos and Telstra officials said at the CeBIT Future of Payments conference today in Sydney.

More collaboration among stakeholders and increased applications for technology like near field communications are needed before paying using a mobile becomes widespread, they said.

“Consumers and merchants do want mobile payments,” said Eftpos CEO Bruce Mansfield.

“Is mobile the answer to cash substitution in Australia?” he asked. “No, not yet, but I do believe that it might be in the future if we collaborate effectively as industry stakeholders and build a solution that includes merchants, consumers, telcos, financial service providers and, of course, other technology providers.”

Eftpos believes there will be wide adoption of NFC, but not in the near term because NFC requires adoption by multiple stakeholders to take off, he said. It requires greater “stakeholder interest,” he said.

NFC will take off when it’s used for more applications than payments, said Telstra enterprise and government group general manager, Rocky Scopelliti. NFC “is often spoken as the go-to technology for mobile payments, but NFC is much broader than that.” The killer application for NFC in Europe is transit because it can be used for ticketing, for example, he said.

NFC technology is a key part of the “third wave of wireless technology,” which is “all about how do we use our devices to engage our environment differently than what we do today,” Scopelliti said. “We’re still in those early stages of discovering value and services that consumers can enjoy using that technology.”

Apple’s decision not to include NFC in the iPhone 5 was a “significant announcement” that means “Apple customers won’t be doing contactless transactions for a while,” Mansfield said. It was an “important decision” for Apple “because of their walled garden,” he said. Apple will adopt NFC “when they feel it is appropriate.”

Australian banks have said they are still upbeat on NFC despite the iPhone 5's lack of support for the technology.

If paying by mobile “is to be successful, it has to be a solution that is ubiquitous,” Mansfield said. It must be “available everywhere, no matter who you bank with, no matter what your payment type is” and no matter what the device, he said.

Eftpos hopes to have mobile and online payment products available to the market next year, Mansfield said. Eftpos has taken a strategy of supporting all mobile payment options using an open architecture. Mansfield won’t “bet on which [mobile] wallet will win the wallet wars, he said. “Whatever wallet you wish to consume ... we’d like to be a funding source on that wallet.”

Consumers will adopt mobile payments if companies consider the user experience from the start, said AIMIA mobile industry group co-chair, Oliver Weidlach. People want to know how payments “affect them,” he said. He predicted many would be interested in a service, for example, that could inform them whether a purchase about to be made fits into their budget.

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