The trial will see five hundred bank staff using BlackBerry NFC smartphones to make MasterCard PayPass payments, and the technology used will in future also support the country's national transportation ticketing technology.
Leading South African financial institution Absa has announced it will begin the country's first live user trial of NFC technology in mid-December.
Five hundred Absa staff will take part in the trial. They will be issued with NFC phones that enable them to load prepaid funds onto a Mastercard Paypass application on their handsets and then make payments at the point-of-sale, through Absa Online or at Absa ATMs.
The mobile payment system also contains South Africa's National Department of Transport data structure which, says Absa, will, in future, "facilitate more advanced payments in transit". The application on the phone will store details of the commuter, the day and time, where they entered and exited the transit system — and use this information to calculate the fares.
"Absa is the first institution in South Africa to bring near field communication (NFC) capabilities with an EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) card payment application to a handset," says Arrie Rautenbach, head of retail markets at Absa.
"The trial paves the way for consumer market utilisation of the mobile phone as a payment device by using the revolutionary NFC technology," Rautenbach adds. "While this trial will facilitate low value payments in retail and transit in early stages, we envision many more exciting new forms of mobile payment in the future."
"As we learn from the practical, hands-on experiences of the trial, we will continue our discussions and deepen our relationships with the major players in the 'NFC ecosystem' to develop the commercial models, and extend the variety of payments instruments made available by the wallet," he continues.
"This trial is going to provide key insights which will prove crucial to refining the customer experience as we bring NFC on mobile to market," says Adrian Vermooten, deputy managing executive of Absa Digital Banking.
Earlier this year, Absa and mobile network operator Vodacom formed a strategic alliance designed to accelerate the pace of innovation in mobile financial services. "One of the focus areas of this alliance is NFC," says Absa. "From the customer's perspective, the benefits of NFC will include faster transactions, shorter queues, increased levels of security and the ability to electronically track their spending habits."