IT'S finally here. By the end of this month, mobile phone users will be able to use their phones to pay for meals, groceries and other purchases - even taxi rides.
This new mode of payment will be accepted at about 30,000 retail points islandwide, for a start.
It is being made available by a consortium of companies that include DBS and Citibank; telcos M1, SingTel and StarHub; EZ-Link; and the digital security company Gemalto.
Using their mobile phones, consumers will be able to choose from credit, pre-paid and stored-value payment options with participating companies.
Watson's, G2000 and ComfortDelGro are among the first companies that have signed up.
To use the new service, mobile phones must be equipped with near field communication (NFC) capability.
This is a short-range wireless communication technology that transmits data such as an advertisement or payment between a mobile device and a reader. Some phones with this ability that have been certified for use include the Samsung Galaxy S III and Sony Xperia S. The phones must also use NFC-enabled SIM cards.
Gemalto's chief innovation and technology officer Tan Teck Lee said at a press conference yesterday that the new service would be the first nationwide NFC payment service to be launched in the world.
Such systems have already been in use in parts of countries such as Australia, Japan and the United States from as early as 2009.
StarHub and SingTel started NFC trials as far back as 2007. M1 followed suit in 2009.
But there were not enough NFC-enabled phones available here at the time.
In the last 12 months, close to 100,000 NFC phones have been sold here, said the market research firm GfK Asia. In June, they made up as many as one in five of the 105,500 mobile phones sold.
Mr Gerard Tan, who is the account director for digital technology at GfK Asia, said devices equipped with NFC technology will be on the rise. "Obviously, key industry stakeholders will also need to work on the improving ease of transaction and security concerns in parallel," he added.
Sales engineer Ethan Heng, 28, welcomed the new option, but expressed concern about security.
"If there is a limit to the amount charged on the phone, if I can control how much is topped up, I will feel assured," he said.
A DBS spokesman said that this is meant as a micropayment service. Each transaction is capped at $100, with a daily payment limit of $500.
The Infocomm Development Authority said it will work with the consortium to offer this service for use on the public transit system by early next year.
If there is a limit to the amount charged on the phone, if I can control how much is topped up, I will feel assured.
- Sales engineer Ethan Heng, on the new service, which caps daily payments at $500