Visa, Rogers, RBC bank on mobile payments trial

The race to own the first up-and-running cell phone mobile payment network continues, with Visa, Rogers, and the Royal Bank of Canada teaming up for their first pilot.

They will be going against the trio of Mastercard, Citibank, and Bell , who are in the midst of their own, competing trials.

Near-field communication chips will be installed on pre-production Motorola Sliver phones and distributed to up to around 500 people, said David Robinson, vice-president of new business planning with Rogers Wireless. It was important that GSM-compatible phones be used, he said, to ensure that it fall in line with global standards, which will help take the program wider eventually. Said Robinson: “When it comes to payments, international brands and standards are critical.”


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The people themselves will be RBC Visa payWave cardholders and Rogers Wireless customers chosen based on geographic locale, as the pilot will take place in downtown Toronto with as-yet-unnamed quick-service merchants.


Both mobile payment partnerships were often shrouded in secrecy. It turns out that it was a partner that brought RBC and Rogers together was security vendor Gemalto, who works with the Visa Mobile platform, and does both Rogers SIM cards and RBC card personalization.

“This is a very complicated eco-system with people who aren’t typically at the table together, so it’ll be good to have that common ground together,” said Robinson.

“That will be the most interesting part, seeing how they all work together,” said IDC Financial Insights senior analyst Rob Burbach. “They’re all big companies used to having their own way.”

The mobile payments will be tapped against Visa payWave readers, which will be installed over the coming year or so. They will be the same model as those used in the ongoing TD Bank Kitchener-Waterloo area trial of EMV-chip-embedded Visa payWave cards , and will be rolled out soon for the trial, which should ramp up by mid-next-year, said Robinson.

The wider, general availability continues to be up in the air, Robinson said: “It’s very much dependent on the availability of near field communication phones from all the handset vendors. We’re pressing them for their handset roadmaps, but we’ll probably start seeing more at the end of 2009.”

There are other challenges as well, said Visa Canada’s head of products, Mike Bradley. “We need to ensure that we get a real gauge of the consumer experience…and the technology to fit that paradigm.”

Part of the technology picture is the security of the over-the-air delivery of the mobile payment software. “The customer gets the phone pre-loaded and then connects via the Rogers network to where the data is stored in RBC, and then downloads it in a secure transaction,” said Bradley.

Research has indicated that desire for such a service is decent so far, he said, citing a recent Ipsos-Reid survey of almost 2,000 people that found that over half of the respondents would be interested in mobile payments.

And they’d better be. Said Burbach: “For this to work at all, there has to be wide consumer and merchant adoption.”

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