NTT DoCoMo is to begin testing a service for making credit card payments using mobile phones equipped with infrared transmission ports.
Visa International, Nippon Shinpan, OMC Card and AEON Credit will participate in the trials which are scheduled to commence in Tokyo in June. A commercial service involving participation of other card companies is targeted for spring 2004.
The trial uses a DoCoMo "i-appli" application for payments based on the Visa Proximity Payments Messaging Specification made using credit card data that is downloaded and stored in DoCoMo 504i and 504iS mobile phones. DoCoMo's i-appli functionality uses SMS to provide personalised marketing messages to consumers.
Because the trial uses existing features, there is no need for additional functionality in the phones, says DoCoMo. As such, the firm expect the service to win favour among the more than eight million owners of DoCoMo 504i and 504iS mobile phones. Every DoCoMo 504i and 504iS phone is standard-equipped with an IrDA port to exchange information with other IrDA-equipped devices via an infrared signal.
In the first phase of the pilot, Nippon Shinpan and DoCoMo will focus on technical evaluations of the service, including communication formats, payment methods and user operability. Nippon Shinpan will select 3000 triallists from among Visa cardholders and provide infrared-payment terminals to about 500 merchants.
Visa International will provide full technical and marketing support and will help create a localised infrared-payment mechanism for the Japanese market based on its global specification for proximity payments. Visa says it will ensure global interoperability with other infrared-payment formats.
In the second phase, which begins this autumn, OMC Card and AEON Credit Service will join the pilot test to recruit more users and expand the range of participating merchants, bringing the pilot test closer in form to full commercialisation.
The participants expect the service will increase the appeal of credit card-based payments among young adults, and also promote wider use of credit cards for small transactions traditionally handled with cash.