Etisalat partners with Emirates NBD to launch NFC in the UAE

The largest mobile operator in the Middle East has partnered with the region’s largest bank for the launch of NFC-based mobile payments.

OPTIONS: Customers can choose either a Nokia or a soon-to-launch Samsung NFC handset
OPTIONS: Customers can choose either a Nokia or a soon-to-launch Samsung NFC handset

Etisalat has confirmed that it has chosen NFC technology for the mobile wallet service it plans to launch in the United Arab Emirates, and for which it received regulatory approval last month.

The mobile operator has also revealed that its banking partner for the launch is Emirates NBD, the largest bank in the middle east. It has also partnered with Visa for the launch and has picked Gemalto to act as Trusted Service Manager (TSM).

Purchases made via NFC handsets will be charged directly to customers’ Emirates NBD Visa credit card account just as they would be with a traditional card payment, says Etisalat. Customers wishing to use near field communication services will also be able to choose either a Nokia or a soon-to-launch Samsung NFC phone, the operator revealed.

Etisalat is currently exhibiting its NFC solution at Gitex Technology Week 2009, in conjunction with Gemalto, and is demonstrating the use of smart posters to download coupons as well as NFC payments.

“The mobile phone has become a key personal device and it is our strategy to employ the latest technology and innovation to drive even greater value for our customers,” says Essa Al Haddad, Etisalat’s chief marketing officer. “We hope that this initiative will provide a new dimension to areas like ticketing, retail marketing and electronic payments thus paving the way for advanced NFC services on mobile phones.”

“Emirates NBD believes contactless mobile payment services will be a key lifestyle driver for our highly mobile customer base, and we are delighted to be the leading bank to deliver this innovative service to them,” adds Jamal Bin Ghalaita, deputy CEO of Emirates NBD. “Emirates NBD aspires to become the UAE’s leader and pioneer in banking technology. Our partnership with Etisalat is the perfect union to test this contactless technology and will inevitably transform banking as we know it today, as both organisations are leaders in their game and hence, are fully equipped for such a bold innovation.”

Although, for now, Etisalat has only partnered with Emirates NBD, further partnerships are expected in the future. “This doesn’t stop us partnering with other banking partners as our platform is suitable for such an upgrade,” Etisalat’s Rashed Majed Al Abbar explained last month.

Speaking with Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National this week, Mr Al Abbar added that Etisalat will not be looking to charge its customers to use the service, although Emirates NBD may make a charge to its customers.

“No retail outlets have been selected to take part in a pilot project, but Mr al Abbar expected the service to be tested at a number of food courts in Dubai malls, where customer traffic was high,” The National reports. “Dubai Metro stations may also be involved.”

“The pilot study is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter and the system should then be ready to be deployed commercially,” the National adds. “Several phones should then be on the market with the necessary chip.”

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