Beating banks around the world to the punch, Ukraine's PrivatBank has launched a host card emulation-based mobile NFC payments service.
The Liqpay app, now available in beta, works with NFC smartphones running on Android 4.4 KitKat, letting users register any MasterCard or Visa card in order to fund payments made with a tap of their phone at contactless terminals.
Last week Visa and MasterCard gave their support to HCE, a cloud-based mechanism for hosting NFC applications outside the Secure Element that effectively removes the need for bank reliance on telcos in implementing mobile payments.
HCE allows any NFC application on an Android device to emulate a smart card, letting users pay with their smartphones, while permitting financial institutions to host payment accounts in a secure, virtual cloud, rather than renting space on the SIM from airtime operators.
Visa and MasterCard hope that by making deployment easier, HCE will usher in widespread adoption of mobile NFC payments, which have so far failed to take off.
Both card firms are working with several banking partners on rolling out the technology but PrivatBank seems to have got there first, with head of e-commerce business Alexander Vityaz, explaining: "Consumers will be able to download a beta-version of the Liqpay App starting tomorrow. We decided to use HCE because it is independent and a very easy solution."
Spain's BankInter has been showing off its HCE-based app at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, but it has yet to release it to the general public, with the commercial launch scheduled for some time in Q2/Q3.