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Far EasTone, Vodafone launch low-cost NFC phone

2013/07/08 21:47:32

(Photo courtesy of Far EasTone Telecommunications Co.)

Taipei, July 8 (CNA) Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., Taiwan's third-largest mobile provider, launched a low-cost smartphone Monday that is based on near-field communication (NFC) technology.

The Vodafone Smart III device was launched in cooperation with Vodafone Group Plc, the world's largest mobile communications company, and will carry a price tag of NT$4,990 (US$166) when it hits local stores later this month, the Taiwanese carrier said.

Far EasTone President Yvonne Li noted that Taiwan is the first overseas market in which U.K.-based Vodafone is launching the affordable NFC-ready phone, and she said Far EasTone has purchased more than 10,000 units of the phone.

"We are likely to see more mid- to entry-level NFC phones available in the market in the future," Li said at a press conference held to announce the phone and a trial plan for NFC-based mobile payments.

"But it will take some time because these phones have to be built in accordance with certain technological standards and complete many security tests," she said, adding that NFC phones available now are mostly high-end models, such as the new HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sony Xperia Z.

Far EasTone plans to buy a total of 1.7 million to 1.8 million smartphones this year, and NFC-ready models are expected to make up over 50 percent of the total volume, Li said.

Also on Monday, Far EasTone announced that it will launch a trial project for NFC-based mobile payments by the end of July, which will initially only be available for employees of the Far EasTone Group.

The project, to be launched in cooperation with Far Eastern International Bank and MasterCard Inc., the world's second-largest credit and debit card network, will allow users to simply download virtual credit cards to their NFC-enabled smartphones.

The company said it aims to start commercial operation of the mobile payment system in the first quarter of 2014 after collecting necessary feedback to fine-tune the service.

According to research firm Gartner Inc., worldwide mobile payment transaction revenues will reach US$235.4 billion in 2013, a 44 percent increase from the US$163.1 billion in 2012.

But NFC will account for only about 2 percent of the total in 2013 and 5 percent in 2017, although growth is expected to increase from 2016, when the penetration of NFC mobile phones and contactless readers increases, the U.S.-based researcher predicted.

(By Jeffrey Wu)