Monday, June 13, 2011

Korea Inc. united for mobile payments

Ten years ago, SK Telecom would carpet bomb Korea with 400,000 terminals ("dongles") to boost its Moneta mobile payment service. Yesterday, Korea Inc. announced 300,000 NFC-enabled Point Of Sales by the end of 2011 to put the country ahead of the pack in this very very strategic sector.

The difference ? This is not a solo act anymore. SKT alone couldn't succeed in setting the new standard in mobile payments at home and pushing the concept overseas, but this time, the whole value chain and ecosystem is following. And if it works, each player will claim a nice slice of a much bigger pie.

Under the regulator's umbrella (KCC, the herald of "NFC-based Mobile Smart Life Services"), over thirty Korean CEOs met at the Seoul Press Center to sign this decisive MOU in Near Field Communications, and if you throw in the members of the recently formed Grand NFC Korea Alliance, you've got the closest thing to a mobile payment dream team :

- all 3 Mobile Network Operators : Korea Telecom, SK Telecom, U+ (LG Telecom)
- the biggest card players around : Visa, MasterCard, Shinan Card, Kookmin Card (KB), Lotte Card, Hyundai Card, T-Money, MNO partners (Hana) SK Card and BC Card (KT)...
- key authorities and associations : KCC, ETRI, TTA, KISA (Korea Internet & Security Agency), MOIBA (Mobile Internet Business Association), RAPA (Korea Radio Promotion Association)...
- top manufacturers : Samsung, LG, Pantech...
- top enablers: UbiVelox, KEBT, MtekVision, 3ALogics Inc, KICC...
- top payment enablers / billing service providers : KSNet Inc, Mobilians, Galaxia, Danal Corp., KCP...



The only players missing on the picture are the endusers.

And as we saw before, pedagogy will be key in a country where hacking happens to be a national pastime (if you include North Korea in the package), where few people protect their handsets with a PIN code, and where distrust in smartphone security keeps spreading like wildfire.

Of course, "Near Field" meaning 10 cm and below, close encounters of the third thief will require more intimacy than via Bluetooth. Besides, many Koreans are already used to contactless micropayments thanks to T-Money (ie Seoul public transportations and taxis, thousands of convenience stores and vending machines...). Furthermore, NFC trials have been under way for quite a while : for instance KT's "Mobile Stamp" couponing system, SKT's Mobile Commerce Zone or Q Store pilots, or cross border trials between SKT's T-Cash and Japan's KDDI and SoftBank...

This MOU aims at multiplying testbeds and giving momentum to the technology, the bulk of the infrastructure being planned for Q4 2011. So where will NFC-based payments be available ? GS group plans to implement them in its convenience stores (GS25) and gas stations (GS Kaltex). Major retailers (Lotte Mart, Emart...) are joining the party. Seoul and Gyeonggi-do buses and subways, as well as many taxis will be converted. A major shopping area for tourists (particularly from Japan), Myeongdong has been identified as a strategic hotspot to feed the buzz.

Needless to say, the number of NFC-enabled handsets is another essential element in the equation. The alliance targets an ambitious 5 M units by the end of the year, leveraging on existing devices (Samsung Galaxy S II and Sky Vega Racer opened the way), and the Google-Apple war : since Android Gingerbread OS supports NFC, Cupertino had to consider it for iPhone 5.

And oh. This non-event : Samsung is expected to surpass soon Nokia as the world's top handset manufacturer.


Seoul Village 2011 - initially published on mot-bile (see all posts related to wireless in Korea).
NEW : follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter

* sorry, not yet in English : "국내 통신사·금융(카드)사 CEO 최초로 한자리에 모여 NFC 서비스 활성화를 위한 MOU 체결"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments and remarks. Also for your patience (comments are moderated and are not published right away - only way to curb the spam, sorry). S.

books, movies, music