Samsung And Visa To Offer Olympic Mobile Payments

Visitors to London for the Olympics will be able to use NFC-equipped mobile phones to buy snacks and drinks

Mobile giant Samsung and credit card company Visa are teaming up to offer mobile payment technology at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The two companies will produce a special mobile handset ahead of the games, equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC) – a technology that can beam and receive information at a distance of up to 4 inches – and a Visa-enabled SIM card. The handsets will be distributed among Visa and Samsung sponsored athletes, and will also be available for consumers to purchase through mobile network operators and other distributors.

Cutting queues

The technology works like an Oyster card, and allows users to pay for items costing up to £15 by simply holding the phone in front of a contactless reader at the point of purchase. Organisers hope the system will help reduce queues at food and drink stalls in the Olympic Park. The phones can also be used at the more than 60,000 locations across London that accept contactless payments.

“We are not only breaking new ground for Olympic partnerships, we are committed to enabling consumers to connect with mobile and contactless payments technology for 2012 and beyond,” said Peter Ayliffe, chief executive of Visa Europe. “We look forward to working with financial institutions and mobile operators alongside Samsung to make this initiative a success.”

The news follows the recent announcement of plans by mobile operators O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere to roll out NFC payment services in “select markets” by next year. Deutsche Telekom, which operates T-Mobile in the UK, said the push towards NFC is an attempt to fight back against the power of Apple and Google, which have dipped into smartphone users’ pockets with their app stores.

The NFC race

Meanwhile, device manufacturers such as Google, Apple, Research In Motion and Nokia are all busy building NFC into their future smartphone handsets. In December, industry analysts iSuppli predicted that the use of mobile devices for payments would begin to take off in 2011, with 2012 being a ‘make or break’ year for the technology.

“Imagine paying your bus fare, buying a plane ticket or making an ATM/credit card purchase simply by holding your cell phone near a wireless terminal,” said iSuppli communications and consumer electronics analyst Jagdish Rebello. “This is the mobile payment revolution on the verge of being unleashed by NFC technology.”

The GSM Association (GSMA) has also said it expects NFC to take off over the next year, citing Frost and Sullivan figures predicting that the total payment value for NFC globally will reach more than €110 billion (£92bn) in 2015.

“NFC represents an important innovation opportunity and will facilitate a wide range of interesting services and applications for consumers, such as mobile ticketing, mobile couponing, the exchange of information and content, control access to cars, homes, hotels, offices, car parks and much more,” said Franco Bernabe, chief executive of Telecom Italia and chairman the GSMA.