Dumb pipe V NFC

Dumb pipe V NFC

Daniel Gurrola

Daniel Gurrola, vice president of strategy and business development, mobile consumer, Orange

Near field communications (NFC) is the gleaming new silver bullet in the mobile operator’s arsenal of weaponry against becoming nothing more than a dumb pipe. That is the view of Orange’s Daniel Gurrola, vice president of strategy and business development for the mobile consumer. Here, we take a look why Gurrola thinks NFC is such hot property.

Mobile operators can use NFC as a strategy to avoid being labelled a ‘dumb pipe’, and the technology is already steering Orange away from being seen by consumers as a utility, said Gurrola at Mobile World Congress in February.

Gurrola explained: “This is about Orange working to be relevant in people’s lives. NFC plays right into our vision, which has two angles: becoming our customers’ ‘digital coach’; and enriching their communications needs, wherever, however, easily and securely. When it comes down to it, we want to continue to be seen as relevant, and saying we want to be seen as relevant in people’s lives is the opposite of saying we want to be a dumb pipe.

“We mustn’t demonise the dumb pipe though,” he added. “You can make very healthy returns being a dumb pipe. The point is, Orange has decided we don’t want to be a dumb pipe.”

 

Wot no dumb pipe?

Orange sees NFC as the direction communications is evolving towards, Gurrola continued. “It’s a really exciting area. We see NFC as the third revolution; the first was SMS, the second was mobile broadband, and the third is NFC.”

Gurrola likened the evolution of NFC to that of apps: “Today you can see how apps have changed your life, but three years ago I was debating with people as to how significant apps were really going to be. We are at the same point with NFC now; will it really change people’s lives? We believe it will. We want to be active in shaping this area, taking a leading role with standards, deployments, investments, and working with OEMs.”

Orange has been on the NFC-trail for some time, and is generally seen as a mover and shaker in the world of this technology. Back in March 2009 Orange and Barclaycard announced a long term strategic partnership to develop a range of mobile, financial and payment services, whereby customers would be able to use their mobiles to pay for goods and services at retailers using contactless technology by simply waving their handset against a reader. Orange and Barclaycard said at the time that they believed this would be the biggest revolution in payments since plastic cards were introduced over 40 years ago.

 

Quick Tapping

In May 2011, two years later, the pair launched the UK’s first contactless mobile payments service, called Quick Tap, allowing consumers to make purchases on the high street using their mobile phone. Customers could make purchases £15 and under by simply tapping their Quick Tap mobile handset against a contactless reader at over 50,000 stores. Using Barclaycard’s contactless payment technology, customers were able to pay for items anywhere they see the contactless payments symbol, including shops and cafes like Pret A Manger, EAT, and Subway, using Quick Tap’s secure SIM-based approach to mobile payments.

Just a few months down the line and things began accelerating, with the announcement of the next handset in the Quick Tap range, the Samsung Wave 578, following the Samsung Tocco Quick Tap.

Most recently, on 24 Feb 2012 Orange unveiled Quick Tap Treats, the UK’s first mobile contactless retail reward scheme, in partnership with the EAT restaurant chain. Quick Tap Treats allows all Orange customers with NFC enabled handsets to simply tap their mobile phone on specially designed posters at any of the 110 EAT outlets so they can receive a free treat each day, from a free baguette or piece of fruit, to a free coffee.

Quick Tap Treats works using NFC tags which feature on specially designed posters in EAT stores nationwide. Customers simply need to tap their Quick Tap phone on the poster to play a game in which they will win and be able to immediately redeem guaranteed treats from within the EAT store. The game will also be available as a Quick Tap Treats App downloadable from Orange World, as well as BlackBerry, Android and OVI apps stores, providing improved game playing experience.

 

Easy to use

Orange is continuing to push NFC in France, with commercial roll outs of the technology in Nice and now Strasbourg. A further nine cities are to follow soon. Orange is also trialling NFC in Spain and Poland, and expects deployments this year in Spain, where it is working with bank Santander, incorporating a mobile wallet featuring for the first time both Visa and Mastercard.

Gurolla stated that Orange is currently in discussions with local operators in both Spain and Poland, not to coordinate launches, but to agree the NFC standards to be used and also to define interoperable business processes. “What we want is a way for customers to access services that will be distinct between service providers, but that those services are easy to use, so the customer gets the same experience operator to operator. In order for NFC to have an impact, it has to involve local operators; you need interoperability.”

He concluded: “NFC is a hard thing to do.”