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SYDNEY, Dec 28 AAP

December 28 2012, 12:06AM

Australian telcos are ramping up plans to enable customers to pay for goods by swiping their mobile phones or tablets at the checkout.

The move, which may eventually render credit cards obsolete, has been mooted for several years and the technology to deliver so-called "contactless payments" has existed for some time.

The idea is simple - customers select goods or services and then scan their mobile phones over a point of sale sensor, debiting cash from a bank account linked to their device.

But the concept has failed to gain traction, particularly because relatively few mobile phones contained the small near field communication (NFC) chips required to make the payments.

Telstra and Vodafone predict that will change in 2013, with far more NFC-enabled devices coming onto the market.

"It's been promised for a long time, but by next year many devices on the market will incorporate near field communication," Telstra chief technology officer Dr Hugh Bradlow said.

"NFC has been a slow burn, but it will likely become entrenched next year and we plan to be a big part of that."

Vodafone predicts 80 per cent of all smartphones sold on its network in 2013 will be NFC-enabled.

The telco expects to formally launch its SmartPass app, which will enable contactless mobile phone payments, within months.

Vodafone has developed the app as part of a tie-up with Visa and the system will use the credit card firm's existing Paywave network, which enables payments by swiping credit cards over a sensor.

Coles and Woolworths are among a number of major retailers investigating mobile phone payment systems.

But Australian National Retailers Association CEO Margy Osmond said any introduction would ultimately depend on demand from customers.

"All of the big retailers will be looking at that technology now. All of them have got to focus on this innovation space," she told AAP.

"I think it's comforting that smartphones will have the capacity to do it this year (2013).

"But retailers will move at the speed customers are comfortable with."

By Miles Godfrey, AAP Social Media Reporter