T-Mobile Netherlands pulls out of NFC consortium

Thursday 8 December 2011 | 09:38 CET | Background

T-Mobile has pulled out of Sixpack, the Dutch project between the three largest banks and operators to introduce NFC to the Netherlands. The launch of the project itself has been delayed from early 2012 to early 2013, as the consortium intends to set up a Trusted Service Manager and is seeking approval from the European regulators for their joint venture

In November KPN, Vodafone Nederland, Rabobank, ABN Amro and ING announced that they will introduce an open platform for mobile payments made at point-of -sale. They are establishing a Trusted Service Manager (TSM) as intermediary and aim to launch commercial services in 2013. T-Mobile was originally part of the consortium but has now pulled out. However, T-Mobile said that it still believes in NFC.

The consortium has asked the European Commission for approval of its plan to create a TSM, who acts as an independent intermediary controlling the secure applications and acts as a link between all the parties involved. It has to ask permission from the European Commission and not the Dutch competition authority, NMa, because of the scope of the project and market shares of the participants. The decision by the antitrust regulators in Brussels will be keenly watched in other European countries, where telcos have announced plans for their own NFC joint ventures, including those in Germany, the UK, Denmark, Hungary and most recently, Sweden.

Cees Onderwater is the projectmanager at Rabobank and has been involved with the project since 2009. He expects that the Commission will grant approval in early 2012, after which the name of the TSM can be announced. Currently Sixpack is the name of the programme, and Travik the name of the consortium of five.

The technology is being developed according to international standards, with the SIM card at its centre. The GSMA recently presented a list of 45 operators, among them the Dutch operators, who support SIM card implementation for mobile payments. However, the Dutch TSM will also welcome other implementations with a Secure Element or a SD card. Cees Onderwater says that the consortium has chosen for an open approach from the start. “The success of the ecosystem will benefit most from openness” said Onderwater. The roll-out of the payment infrastructure is an important element but any service provider can join with secure services, whether via NFC or not.

The term service provider is loosely defined to include banks who offer mobile payments under their own brand and with their own smartphone apps as well as  mobile operators as well as retailers offering loyalty programs or for example cinemas selling tickets. Cinema chain Pathé has already launched a smartphone app and mobile payment, based on the Minitix mobile wallet.

The first feasibility studies into mobile payment in the Netherlands were held in  late 2009 and early 2010. The parties involved concluded that mobile payments were achievable, which led to the initial Sixpack declaration in September 2010. At that point a launch in 2012 was anticipated.

However somewhere along the line T-Mobile decided to pull out. A spokesman only says that they took that step ‘after careful considerations between the necessary investments and the expected return on investment. T-Mobile and Deutsch Telekom however believe in NFC and will decide on their market approach at a later date’.

Maybe T-Mobile believes that it can get ahead of KPN and Vodafone as mother company Deutsche Telekom is itself rather active in NFC offerings. Together with Vodafone Germany and O2, T-Mobile Germany has set up mpass, an open platform for NFC payments. Mpass will be introduced into the German public transport service as well as in museums in Berlin. Furthermore T-Mobile Germany recently launched Coupies, a programme which allows subscribers to receive reduction vouchers on their mobile phones. Coupies translates the vouchers into a QR code on the screen which can be scanned at POS. T-Mobile initially puts the scanners in 750 of its own shops, but the technology can be used in many places.

Furthermore Deutsche Telekom has good contacts in another growth market. At the IAA car show in September Deutsche Telekom, together with automotive supplier Continental, presented a NFC application for hire cars. A smartphone application can be used to locate a vehicle, pay for it and drive away. Deutsche Telekom also co-operates closely with France Telecom in developing cross border services for mobile data and M2M. The Netherlands is not part of the first group of countries for this project (they are Germany, Poland, France, Belgium and Luxembourg), but it was announced that in 2012 the Netherlands and the Czech Republic will be part of the M2M co-operation. Pulling out of Sixpack means that T-Mobile Netherlands will have to negotiate with the regulators, banks and retailers to bring services to the market. That disadvantage could be cancelled out by the fact that the services are more advanced east of the border and so there is the experience in-house to rely upon.


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