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Tonga gets commercial NFC payments service

The tiny pacific island nation has become one of the first countries in the world to get a commercial NFC service with the launch of ‘Beep and Go’, a service introduced by local carrier Digicel that works in conjunction with NFC phones and stickers as well as the carrier’s existing Mobile Money remittance service and Verifone’s mWallet technology.

Tonga's Nuku Island - Pic: Stefan Heinrich (Msdstefan at de.wikipedia.com)

TONGA: NFC arrives on Pacific islands

Digicel Pacific, a mobile network operator with operations across the Pacific, has launched an NFC payments service in the archipelago nation of Tonga.

The service works with NFC phones and with NFC tags issued by Digicel that are linked to customers’ mobile phone numbers and are accepted at Verifone contactless POS terminals, equipped with the POS maker’s mWallet technology.

Fifty merchants in the business district of Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, have been equipped to accept NFC payments for the launch. In the coming months, “hundreds more” contactless Verifone payment systems will be installed in the region and both Digicel and Verifone say they plan to extend the new ‘Beep and Go’ service to the entire island nation.

The ‘Beep and Go’ service follows the introduction of international money transfers late last year, enabling families in New Zealand to instantly send money directly to the mobile phones of Digicel subscribers in the Pacific region. With the addition of NFC functionality, as well as receiving funds on their mobile phones that they can exchange for cash, recipients can now also spend the funds at merchants equipped to support the new service.

A video shows the service in action:

“The new service is truly inclusive,” says Digicel, “because customers do not need a bank account, credit card or a smartphone.”

“Many Tongans are unbanked and credit card penetration is extremely low,” the carrier explains. “In addition, an NFC capable smartphone is a luxury item for people in a country where many families have a dependence on international remittances from New Zealand, Australia and the USA.”

“International remittances play a vital role in the economies of the Pacific,” adds Darren McLean, Digicel Pacific’s commercial director. “We believe the level of convenience, lower cost and easy authentication provided by Digicel and Verifone can transform the way our customers receive, manage and spend their money in this region.

“Combining our existing Mobile Money product with VeriFone mWallet services and NFC acceptance systems helps us offer our subscribers an easy, convenient and integrated mobile money experience. We think this will open the way to making Mobile Money the everyday means of payment in our Pacific markets — from groceries, airtime top-up and utility bills, through to wages and government payments.”

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