As the home of the European Parliament, Strasbourg has been on the international map for some time. But it’s also staking a claim for a place in European history as the location of some of the most pivotal trials of contactless technology, which will change the way we pay forever.

The French city’s forays into the world of contactless include introducing the technology on its public transport network, with an AFC system supplied by the ERG Group.

Back in 2006 Strasbourg took part in a year-long trial of MasterCard’s PayPass application supported by Crédit Mutuel-CIC, NRJ Mobile and SFR. It involved 250 users making payments via Sagem handsets at about 50 merchants.

This pilot paved the way for a much bigger scheme in 2007, when Strasbourg and the city of Caen set out to make payments history. Several major French banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and LCL, Crédit Mutuel-CIC, Groupe Caisse d’Epargne, La Banque Postale and Société Générale) and four mobile operators (Bouygues Telecom, NRJ Mobile, Orange and SFR) joined forces with MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Europe to launch a large-scale trial of NFC payments involving 1,000 customers and 200 stores across the two cities. It was a bold move, examining how a multi-operator payment service could simplify proximity payments as well as offer customers a fast, practical and safe way to handle their everyday transactions.

The Payez Mobile trial, which was the first step toward a commercial rollout of a payment solution, aimed to find out what users thought of the technology and to test the interoperability of the solutions provided by different suppliers, which included handsets from LG, Motorola and Sagem. It has now been integrated with the GSMA’s Pay-Buy-Mobile initiative.

The trial is widely regarded as a success. The Pegasus Group (an association of operators and banks involved in the project) have reported customer satisfaction rates of 90%. Equally importantly, the scheme has played a key role in highlighting that firms that usually compete with each other can work together.

It has also led to the creation of the Association Européenne Payez Mobile (AEPM), an association of banks and mobile network operators promoting the rollout of NFC mobile payment in France and further afield.

The AEPM has had a big impact on the development of contactless schemes in France. In 2009, it launched functional and technical specifications for Payez Mobile which cover the cell handset, UICC architecture, payment applications, payment service delivery and management. It also outlines the impact of Payez Mobile on payment processing, including acceptance, acquiring and issuing, and sets out mechanisms to configure a group of applications to seamlessly execute payment transactions locally and internationally.

The Strasbourg and Caen trials have also acted as key stepping stones towards the major contactless project launched in Nice in 2010.

Thanks to the progress made by the trials that started in Strasbourg and Caen, the French government has put its weight behind contactless and NFC projects. As a result, more NFC services offering applications for contactless ticketing, payment, tourism and healthcare could be launched in several of the country’s leading cities, including Strasbourg, in 2011.

Category Number Score
Point of sale terminals/readers deployed 201-500 6
Different types of contactless device 2 4
Number of contactless devices 1001-5000 40
Number of applications 2 2
Total number of service providers involved 17 17
Number of banks in partnership 7 7
Number of operators in partnership 4 4
Number of merchant locations 100 3
Transit operators in scheme 1 1
Parking sector 0 0
Vending 0 0
Entertainment sector – football, leisure, congress etc 0 0
Public sector activities – libraries, schools etc 0 0
Smart poster environments in place 0 0
Marketing campaigns rolled out 1 1
Length of time project implemented 25 months + 5
ROI – future potential 4 4
Green credentials 1-1000 5
Social equality 0 0
Total 99


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