Launch of mobile payments for London transport system marks NFC tipping point

Last updated: 25 November 2019

Mobile payments and NFC have long been talked about but they are still yet to be trusted and widely accepted. As I discussed back in April, consumers need to believe it’s  secure and convenient, and see the backing of retailers for it to gain mainstream acceptance.

However this month the UK took a giant leap towards making mobile payments the norm. Transport for London (TFL), the local government body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London, launched its contactless system – allowing users to pay for their travel through NFC EMV enabled bank cards, fobs and mobile phones. It’s the first organization of its kind in the world to do so. This will be a real barometer of consumer acceptability and Visa Europe predicts that it will hugely impact the usage of the technology in the UK. TFL has already announced over one million contactless journeys since its launch

Mobile operators have been waiting a while for an opportunity like this to present itself. Everything Everywhere (EE) signed a five-year deal with MasterCard to allow mobile payments to be made using NFC back in 2012. It gave its Cash on Tap service an added promotional boost around the TFL news to encourage users to download the free app. Vodafone also announced that Londoners can now use Vodafone SmartPass to pay for their journeys on the tube, bus and most national rail services

Mobile banking trailblazer Barclays is also in the middle of trailing a contactless payment wristband in London. Called bPay, the band will let anyone from any bank make mobile payments of up to £20 for a single item. If the trial is successful the device will be rolled out nation-wide next year.

These developments mark an exciting time for consumers – no more fumbling around for separate travel tickets or juggling multiple payment methods. There could also be potential for opening up the payment and currency barriers across borders, with New York’s subway predicting it will be a position to launch something similar in 2019.  Imagine travelling to New York and being able to swipe your mobile phone to pay for the bus, rather than scraping together the exact change currently needed to make a short journey.

We’ve actually just launched the Allynis Trusted Services Hub which will help make this a possibility by enabling businesses of all kinds to benefit from a single connection, in order to securely deploy their value-added and mobile payment services across a comprehensive portfolio of smartphones and mobile networks around the world.

With services such as this, and large scale interactions like TFL’s showing what’s achievable, the ecosystem will continue to develop. I don’t think we’re too far off seeing mobile payments become the norm, rather than the exception.