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French operators commit to deploying 1m NFC phones in 2011

France’s mobile network operators have formally committed to deploying one million NFC phones in 2011, under the Cityzi brand name.

In an official statement published by the AFSCM (Association Française pour le Sans Contact Mobile), Orange, Bouygues Télécom, SFR and NRJ Mobile have made a joint commitment to deploy the phones and to provide French consumers with a range of NFC services including:

  • Mobile payments. Consumers will be able to add details of their existing bank cards to their Cityzi phone and then make payments at the point-of-sale. Three French banks — Crédit Mutuel, Société Générale and BNP Paribas — are already involved in the project and are piloting the service in Nice
  • Transport ticketing. Purchase and validation of tickets for public transport services as well as access to real time bus and other public transport information.
  • Promotions. Special offer coupons and storage of virtual customer loyalty cards on NFC phones.
  • Information services. A range of services enabling consumers “to interact with the urban environment” such as smart posters allowing consumers to collect tourist information.

The operators have been running a pre-commercial pilot test of NFC services in the city of Nice since May 2010. As of 1 January 2011, more than 3,000 people living in Nice had bought NFC phones so that they could take part in the Cityzi pilot and more than 1,000 local businesses had been equipped to handle NFC payments.

Last month, the French government agreed to provide funding for eight further cities to begin deploying NFC services — Paris, Bordeaux, Caen, Lille, Marseille, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulouse. And, in December, Orange revealed plans to sell a total of 500,000 near field communication-equipped mobile phones in France this year.

A survey of French consumer attitudes to electronic payments, conducted for Wincor Nixdorf by Ifop last month, however, found that the majority are not currently interested in mobile payments services. Of 1,025 consumers who took part in the survey, only 8% were strongly in favour of the idea and a further 33% were quite in favour of the idea. 19% were strongly opposed to the idea of making payments with a mobile phone and a further 40% were quite opposed to the idea.

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