Visa launches mobile payment service

Visa has launched its first commercial mobile payments service for point-of-sale transactions using NFC (Near Field Communications) technology, it announced on Thursday.

The service is available in Malaysia, and allows users to pay for goods by waving their NFC-enabled Nokia 6212 classic handset in front of a contactless reader, according to a statement from Visa. The launch signals the move from pilots to real roll-outs, it said.

Besides Nokia, Visa has teamed up with mobile operator Maxis and Maybank. To get started users can download their Visa payWave credit account details directly to their phone. Currently, 1,800 shops accept the system in Malaysia. Users can also take advantage of the payment method when using public transport, and at highway toll gates and car park facilities.

Both Visa and MasterCard are aggressively pushing mobile payments and related services. At the Mobile World Congress trade show Visa demonstrations included money transfer between accounts, both handset-to-handset and online-to-handset, notification of card activity delivered to the phone and point of sale payments.

In Canada, Royal Bank is conducting trials on money transfers to friends and family using SMS. MasterCard announced last year that its PayPass chip technology will soon be available in cell phone form.

In December, Visa also launched the first commercial service in the U.S. that, for example, includes owners of the Android-based T-Mobile G1 getting transaction alerts sent to their phone, it said in a statement.

However, except for Nokia, the phone vendors haven’t shown the same level of interest. One of the reasons for their hesitation is that they simply don’t know how big the market potential is and when the market will take off, according to Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner.

Volume shipments of phones therefore probably won’t happen until the end of next year, she said.

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