Plans by French mobile operators to deploy m-commerce services are under threat from a new entrant. BPCE, the country's second largest banking group, is joining with Visa to test m-payments using a microSD-based NFC solution that is independent from the operator.
BPCE, owner of Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne, said it will trial the technology in the cities of Nice and Strasbourg this autumn with 500 selected iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and Research In Motion BlackBerry Bold owners.
The aim is to enable handset owners with a mobile payment mechanism using the microSD NFC technology that will be embedded (for test purposes) within the iPhone's case or inside of the Samsung and BlackBerry battery covers. Device Fidelity, the developer of the microSD element, and Visa will look to prove to BPCE and its banking customers that the solution can be secure without using elements within the operator-controlled SIM card.
If the tests prove successful, then Device Fidelity plans to reduce its design to include just the secure element, with NFC support being provided by the handset vendor. Mobile subscribers adopting this micro-SD approach would not be locked to an operator's m-commerce service, and would simply move the micro-SD card to another handset when changing to a different carrier.
However, a Visa m-payment trial with Australia's ANZ bank proved to be unsuccessful, with the bank complaining "the microSD technology did not meet all of our requirements." Another trial is currently underway with ANZ in New Zealand using BlackBerry-based micro-SD cards together with NFC stickers.
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