[Dave Birch] Yet another NFC trial, this time in Strasbourg, involving 200 customers. It’s all very well for ABI Research to predict that in five years from now 30% of all handsets shipped worldwide will be NFC-enabled, but why so much fuss right now? People must be asking why the digital money world spends so much time talking about this technology, when there are no customers out there with NFC phones and no NFC phones in the shops. Look east! When DoCoMo unveiled another 14 handsets with contactless interfaces and both the purse and credit payment schemes (ie, Edy and DCMX) pre-installed, payment service providers in Europe and North America must have started to get the message. DoCoMo now have well over 3 million purse users (yes, I mean users: they have more than 15 million purses out there and the purse has been activated on over 20% of handsets already) and nearly a million DCMX users.

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DoCoMo have started selling their handsets with DCMX turned on and 10,000 Yen of instant credit. Once you’ve got the phone you can apply for up to 200,000 Yen credit: at the time of writing and they have 860,000 customers using the phone-based contactless credit product. My credit card, on the other hand, still has embossing on it (which was useful as I used it in a zip-zap machine in India last month, but on the whole is probably not as useful as a phone with an NFC interface).

Another of the reasons for the rest of us to pay attention to Japan is that the three main contactless payment schemes in Japan (DoCoMo, JCB and Suica) recently announced that they have agreed to share a common platform to enable all of their e-payment brands — Suica, iD (ie, DCMX), QUICPay and Edy — to share the same POS devices and processing center. The interoperable system is expected to begin commercial operation with the Suica and iD brands early next year, with QUICPay and Edy to be added later. What this demonstrates is that non-banks can develop interoperability and therefore provide genuine competition to banks. Since I’m the sort of person who thinks that competition, rather than the regulation, is the best way to improve services, I naturally follow these developments with interest.

Meanwhile, a recent online survey conducted by Visa found that 61 percent of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 are interested in making mobile phone purchases. Additionally, the survey revealed that more than half of U.S. consumers carry their mobile phones at least 75 percent of the time. The survey also showed that 64 percent of consumers are interested in receiving coupons via their mobile device. So it seems as if NFC-powered payments, points and posters will find a ready market in the West as well.


  1. “DoCoMo now have well over 3 million purse users (yes, I mean users: they have more than 15 million purses out there and the purse has been activated on over 20% of handsets already) and nearly a million DCMX users.”
    Did you mean to say 15 million mobiles out there? of which 3m use the prepaid (edy?) wallet.
    Are the 1m DCMX users included in the 3m number or additional to it? e.g. is DCMX bringing new users or expanding functionality for existing wallet users?

  2. I like the Visa figures you’ve quoted. All too often articles and conference presenters (especially at the marketing end of the spectrum) state no-one EVER leaves the house without their mobile phones. That just doesn’t ring true to me.

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