After years of government and telco-backed testing of contactless mobile payments in France, a major bank is ready to provide a significant boost to the country's Near Field Communication project.
French banking group Société Générale will launch its system throughout France this month.
Société Générale, or SocGen, and Oberthur Technologies, completed their most recent pilot in late June in Strasbourg, France. Oberthur provides the bank's Trusted Service Manager platform for the mobile payments technology called Cityzi.
Cityzi had its birth during the first wave of NFC tests in French cities Strasbourg and Caen in 2007, the bank states in a July 16 announcement.
The tests took place under the banner of the Association Francaise pour le Sans Contact Mobile, a telco-backed initiative which brought banks and handset manufacturers into the fold, the bank says.
In 2010, the joint venture declared Nice, France as the country's first contactless mobile city in what amounted to a pre-commercial pilot of the Cityzi technology.
SocGen's customers will be able to subscribe to the NFC payment service through the bank, enabling them to pay with their phones at all the point of sale terminals equipped with contactless readers.
The French government has promoted NFC payments by supporting the Cityzi project at the forefront of that effort, says Zil Bareisis, a London-based senior analyst for research firm Celent.
"SocGen is one of the largest financial institutions in France and getting them on board should give the whole project a major boost," Bareisis says.
The French government set aside 20 million euros to finance a rollout of NFC in other French cities, with the intention of establishing a national NFC infrastructure, Bareisis says.
SocGen says it views its partnership with Oberthur as a key driver in moving the NFC mobile payment project forward.
"Oberthur Technologies has historically been one of our main suppliers of payment cards and a partner in the deployment of mobile secure services," Philippe Marquetty, head of payments and cash management at Société Générale, says in the press release.
"We are confident that the company is well-placed to support us in this national launch," Marquetty adds.
More than 26 mobile phone models, including the Samsung Galaxy S3, which is popular in France, are compatible with Cityzi NFC. In addition, more than 2.5 million French consumers have an NFC-enabled handsets, the bank says.
SocGen's contactless payment cards accommodate customers who don't have NFC handsets, or would like the option of using a card.
The NFC ecosystem in France is "progressively maturing" because of several commercial deployments in progress or being planned, the bank says.
SocGen was also part of the NFC initiative that created the U'GO' application for commuters using the Strasbourg transportation system to purchase and validate ride tickets. The project's partners include telecommunications companies Orange, Bouygues Telecom, SFR and NRJ Mobile, as well as banks Crédit Mutuel, Crédit Agricole, and BNP Paribas.