Dutch delay wireless wallets: T-Mobile waves, doesn't pay
NFC rollout pushed back
The Dutch consortium which promised to deliver NFC payments to the Netherlands in 2012 will now deliver in 2013, and without T-Mobile, but it's the EU's fault.
The Dutch will spend another year getting EU approval for the planned joint venture, a body comprised of network operators and banks to which ultimate authority for NFC payments in the Netherlands will be ceded. But in the meantime T-Mobile has decided to leave the heavy lifting to others.
T-Mobile was one of the original six, which also included Vodafone and KPN on the operator side, with Rabobank, ABN Amro and ING making up the banking component. The lack of proximity payment infrastructure in the Netherlands has prompted T-Mobile to re-examine the figures and decide that it is better off out of the deal for the moment.
The plan is for the new body to invest heavily in creating that infrastructure, and make the money back on the transaction fees, but T-Mobile Netherlands told NFC Times that it wasn't sure the revenue would cover the required investment.
That's not to say that T-Mobile couldn't join the consortium later, but it won't be involved in the submission to the EU for approval, or the 2013 roll-out that should follow.
Most network operators around the world have given up on the idea of making money directly from proximity payments. In the US, the ISIS platform had that intention, but will now provide a single-point-of-contact for anyone wishing to deploy NFC applications, including companies like Visa and Mastercard (and banks), while the UK operators (with the notable exception of Three) have set up their own equivalent.
Outside the Netherlands, operators intend to make money running coupon schemes and selling advertising space, which is fine when banks are already committed to deploying proximity payment (or are already deploying them, as in the UK), but the Netherlands needs investment to get the infrastructure in place first.
Realising that investment is hard, and that the margins on proximity payments are very slim – which is why T-Mobile has pulled out – the other players still want to get proper EU approval to forestall and challenge on competition grounds, which pushes the project back by a year. ®
You know that...
... but the rest of us has to go by the word of the executives pushing the thing, and they "prove" their case by sticking their head... somewhere, claiming that because they can't see anything wrong, the thing therefore must be secure. This certainly isn't the only place where ostrich security proofs abound, of course.
It's just that more business for a security consulting industry, for admonishing users to not do some things and do do some other things, all obvious to the point of being meaningless, for eating the mishaps, maybe refund the odd victim if they complain persistently and loudly enough, and raising the fees for everyone as an adequate answer, that sort of thing. And somehow the problem won't go away. I wonder how that can possibly be.
I have been in this space for years, and infrastructure and deployment costs are ALWAYS the major hurdle to set up any type of competition with VISA and Mastercard. This is why we took a different approach altogether.
In addition, I'm yet to be convinced that NFC is anywhere near secure. The only reason a payment terminal doesn't read a card until it is near is the same reason a London Underground card doesn't read until it's on the scanner: deliberately bad aerials - which does NOTHING to secure the card itself.
If you build your own antenna and a better, more sensitive receiver you can read RFIDs from about 30 meter, and NFC chips from about 10. Not my idea of decent containment..
Also of note...
... is that there is a near-ubiquitous magstrip^Wchip+pin infrastructure* in place already, and two tries before to do much the same with a contact chip but without pin "for small payments" (one of which sort-of still survives, though I wouldn't know as I never use it). Oh and then there's the whole "PT-chip card" debacle that also is supposed to support pay-by-wave for non-fare things, "as an experiment". To much merriment as the thing was at the time equipped with a known-broken-into chip, and largely still is. That sort of thing has perhaps eroded customer trust in yet another scheme, just a bit.
Curious how you can get fired for simple mishaps but if it's entire banks, well, they get to try time and again with yet another scheme. I get a distinct feeling that what "the consumer" wants is entirely unimportant.
* Conveniently owned by a single entity, and suffering regular breakdowns as of late. But then all the banks have that, especially their web-based banking, as does the multi-bank webshop payment thing "iDEAL". All of this is supposed to replace cash, soonish, for cash is naturally suspect. So sayeth a national bank-led club full of "stakeholders" of which curiously few are consumer rights groups.