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Olympic sponsors Samsung, Visa team up to power mobile payments

As part of their sponsorships of the London 2012 Olympics, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Visa Inc. will let consumers make mobile payments using the Samsung Olympic and Paralympic Games mobile handset.

Before and during the Olympic Games in London, the partners will let event attendees make payments via Olympics-branded mobile phones in London and worldwide. Samsung and Visa claim that their new strategic alliance is designed to extend past 2012.

“The London Olympic games provided Visa and Samsung a perfect opportunity to partner to advance our mobile strategies and build on technology assets and sponsorship presence,” said Michelle Janes, senior business leader on the mobile team at Visa, San Francisco. “Samsung is active in mobile payments, we’re active in mobile payments, and the timing is right, with mobile payments on the upswing.

“Samsung has commercial NFC handsets in market, and Visa has a mobile payment application in commercial use, so the partnership just made sense,” she said. “The focus of this announcement is on this iconic NFC-enabled Olympic phone from Samsung.

“We will be providing those to Visa and Samsung-sponsored athletes, and consumers will be able to go into shops where Samsungs distributes handsets today and get those Olympic phones.”

Mobile payments at the Olympics
Samsung Electronics claims to be the worldwide Olympic partner for wireless communications equipment, while Visa claims to be the worldwide Olympic partner and exclusive payment services sponsor.

The companies are combining their sponsorship and technology assets to equip the Olympic and Paralympic Games mobile handsets with technology that enables mobile payments—near field communication and Visa’s contactless payment application.

Contactless and electronic card payments will be available leading up to and during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

To make payments, customers can download the Visa mobile contactless application onto Samsung’s Olympics-branded handset, click or tap the “pay” icon and hold the phone in front of a contactless reader at the point of purchase.

Visa claims that there is growing momentum to commercialize mobile payments worldwide.

In London, there are already more than 60,000 locations where contactless payments are accepted, according to Visa.

Visa and Samsung will work with carriers, financial institutions and retailers around the world to make Visa’s contactless technology available to more mobile users worldwide.

Consumers will be able to make mobile contactless payments before and during the games in London and in other countries around the world.

Currently, Visa mobile payments are being rolled out in various countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

“One of the reasons we’re so excited about the Olympics is that it generates a lot of excitement among consumers,” Ms. Janes said. “We will use our assets both at the games and around the city of London to get the word out, and the athletes using the NFC-enabled Olympic phones will generate consumer excitement as well.”

Visa is working with banks and retailers worldwide to increase acceptance for Visa contactless cards and NFC-enabled mobile phones.

Samsung and Visa will work together to provide the contactless-enabled Olympics handset to Visa and Samsung-sponsored athletes as part of this initiative.

The partners also plan to make the handset available for consumers to buy through mobile wireless carriers and other retail outlets and distributors.

A Visa-enabled SIM card will be required for use with the device in order to make purchases at retailers who have the contactless payment system.

Samsung claims that it launched one of the first commercial NFC phones in France in 2010. It then unveiled what it claims is the industry’s first Android phone equipped with NFC capabilities last year, the Google Nexus S, followed by the NFC-enabled bada smartphone, introduced at Mobile World Congress 2011.

So when is that next inflection point when contactless mobile payments will really reach the mainstream? Visa believes sooner rather than later.

“Visa does have commercial contactless mobile payments in select countries, and we are really optimistic about all off the momentum we’ve seen,” Ms. Janes said. “What we’re hearing is big moves by a lot of the key stakeholders in terms of developing the technology, and we see more NFC-enabled handsets being shipped and more software available on more phones.

“Our approach is relatively technology-agnostic, as the [NFC chip] will sit on the SIM, but we are also using Micro SD cards,” she said. “We want to partner with various companies to get the widest reach possible for Visa contactless payments, and we’re seeing the right movement in the ecosystem.

“The hurdles are decreasing in terms of consumers adopting contactless mobile payments.”

This is small-scale deployment with some experimental flavor, according to a Gartner analyst.

“Please note there is no mention of bank and carrier partners,” said Sandy Shen, Shanghai, China-based senior analsyst at Gartner. “We will see similar announcements in coming days as some banks and carriers are working on their own deals.

“A good test of whether these services are successful is to see whether people would keep using it after the Olympics,” she said.

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