Renowned for a stylish approach to everything it does, France has lent its unmistakable flair and skills to the mobile and contactless sectors. Mobile network operators (MNOs), banks and even the government are all working together to encourage consumers across the country to embrace the technologies.
As both a European and global leader, France has a strong track record of rising to the occasion. In the political arena, together with Germany, it has been at the forefront of formulating plans to address the eurozone crisis. On the domestic front, France is gearing up for its presidential election At the moment it looks like the incumbent president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has a lot of ground to make up on François Hollande, the Socialist front-runner who has been ahead in the opinion polls in the run-up to the two-round ballot set for April 22 and May 6.
France has always been good at attracting global visitors. More than 75 million tourists flock there every year, making it the most visited country in the world. It’s also well-known for putting on a good show having hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup and the 1998 FIFA soccer World Cup. It is also set to stage the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.
Its advanced telecoms network includes 36.154 million land lines and 64 million cell phone subscriptions. Its main MNOs – France Telecom-Orange, SFR and Bouygues Télécom – are all active in the contactless world. They’ve notched up a raft of deployments and made considerable efforts to get NFC-enabled handsets and SIM cards into the market. For example, France Telecom-Orange managed to get almost 500,000 NFC handsets into the hands of French consumers by the end of 2011. They included devices from manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Acer, Nokia, Research in Motion and Sony.
New handset models were also launched into the French market during the year, including the Samsung NFC-enabled Wave 578. This was rolled out by Orange to several other European countries as well as France. Acer also unveiled a new entry-level NFC smart phone for the French market, the E320 Liquid Express.
The French government is keen to promote NFC. Last year, Eric Bresson, Minister for Industry, Energy and Digital Economy, released 20 million euros in funding to enable cities and local agencies to roll out NFC and contactless projects. This aimed to support 20 to 30 contactless ‘Cityzi’ mobile projects for applications such as mass transit, parking, access control and public and tourist information services.
The Association Européenne Payez Mobile (AEPM), which sets the rules and specifications for NFC-based mobile payment in France and includes banks and MNOs among its member organizations, continued to make headway. After a precommercial launch of contactless mobile payments in the southern city of Nice in 2010, followed by Caen and Strasbourg in 2011, AEPM is now offering operational support to banks and MNOs to pave the way for national deployment in 2012.
Work continued in the effort to transform Nice into a ‘contactless city’. Banks such as Crédit Agricole have followed in the footsteps of Crédit Mutuel-CIC and BNP Paribas in launching contactless payment services. Customers can now use their NFC-enabled phones at 1,300 merchant locations accepting PayPass or payWave across the city. An estimated 3,000 users can tap and pay for their fares on public transport and at selected merchant outlets in the city. Additionally, they can use their handsets to read NFC information tags embedded in posters. The project involves all three major French MNOs along with a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) owned by Crédit Mutuel.
Building on its experience in Nice back in 2010, Visa Europe France and its member banks – including Banque Edel, BNP Paribas, Banque Postale, Groupe BPCE, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Mutuel-CIC, HSBC, LCL and Société Générale – started implementing plans to make the city of Strasbourg France’s second contactless payments capital. The initial focus is on distributing contactless payment terminals and cards. The project, which enables consumers to tap and pay for purchases valued at less than 20 euros, brings France one step closer to realizing the government’s aim of making card and cell phone-based contactless payments widely available nationwide.
A number of other cities are expected to start moving to contactless over the next couple of years including Marseille, Bordeaux, Paris, Toulouse, Lille and Rennes.
Visa Europe and Groupe BPCE also launched a contactless microSD-based trial involving the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and two RiM Blackberry Bold handset models in Nice and Strasbourg to showcase NFC. It involves 500 users in the two cities who can use these handsets to pay for purchases valued at less than 20 euros.
Bordeaux got in on the act as well by running an NFC trial enabling users to make payments with a contactless Moneo ePurse stored on Orange SIM cards. An estimated 100 participants were able to use their NFC-enabled Samsung S5230 Player One handsets to make purchases in shops, gain access to municipal facilities and download city information. An additional 200 participants could use contactless-enabled USB keys and contactless cards.
Morpho teamed up with Moneo Payment Solutions in 2011 to launch the MoneoPass by Morpho contactless payment card. These can be used for applications such as payment, transportation, access management and control, event tickets, ID badges, catering and loyalty.
Vix Technology France confirmed it is supplying 70,000 contactless cards to the cities of Brest, Lorient and Quimper. The trio are rolling out three different fare collection systems, all based on a regional interoperable KORRIGO card. For example, Lorient’s 130 buses are being equipped with two contactless and Wi-Fi validators. Vix is also supplying 70 POS terminals for card issuing and reload.
Orange launched its M-Stadium ticketing trial with soccer club Stade Malherbe Caen (SMC) in the eponymous northern city. The project, which is one of 12 selected by the French government for state backing following its call for local authorities to offer contactless-based services, uses mobile contactless technology to enable soccer fans to buy and use eTickets as well as read interactive tags in and around the club’s stadium. The system can also be used for applications such as eCoupons, games and competitions. The trial enabled 20 of its season ticket holders to load their passes onto NFC-enabled handsets, which they then swiped on a terminal to enter SMC’s stadium.
A similar pilot was carried out at Paris’s Stade de France stadium for the Robert Hossein’s Excalibur show.
According to On Track Innovations (OTI), its EasyPark contactless parking payment solution (known as Piaf in France) was adopted by 13 of the country’s municipalities in 2011.