Digicel today launched an innovative addition to its Digicel Mobile Money service offering which sees customers in Tonga being able to pay for goods and services through any mobile phone using NFC technology – and without the need for a bank account or credit card.

With around 60% of the Tongan population not having bank accounts (according to a 2011 report from Wireless Intelligence), credit card penetration even lower and smart phones still a luxury item Digicel says the new service is unique in terms of being fully inclusive because it is accessible from any type of mobile phone and unique in that the contactless POS payments service is fully integrated with a mobile wallet and is not card-backed.

Available initially with 50 merchants in the capital of Nuku’alofa, plans are in place to extend the service right across the island. The new service is a result of a partnership between Digicel and Verifone mWallet and sees the first use of Near Field Communications (NFC) with Mobile Wallet services in the region.

NFC is a set of standards for smart phones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimetres.

In this case, Digicel and Verifone are deploying an NFC-enabled merchant payments solution which uses NFC tags linked to mobile numbers and to contactless POS devices supplied by Verifone – meaning that rather than just being limited to smart phone users, any mobile phone subscriber can use the service.

Darren McLean, Commercial Director at Digicel Pacific - Innovative new service uses Near Field Communications (NFC) and Point of Sale (POS) technologies to work from any mobile phone without the need for a bank account or credit card

With a large proportion of families in Tonga relying on International Remittances from Australia, New Zealand and the USA, Digicel is constantly looking for new ways to ensure that money transfers and payments can be facilitated as quickly, securely and economically as possible. As such, this latest service follows the introduction of International Money Transfers direct to Mobile Wallets by Digicel late last year where customers in New Zealand can instantly send money online to subscribers in the Pacific for much lower costs than using the services of the established operators like Western Union and banks.

Darren McLean, Commercial Director at Digicel Pacific, said, “International remittances play a vital role in the economies of the Pacific. The level of convenience, lower cost and easy authentication provided by Digicel and VeriFone will transform the way our customers receive, manage and spend their money in this region.

He continues; “We don’t think this has been done anywhere before. Combining our existing Mobile Money product with VeriFone mWallet services and NFC terminals helps us offer our subscribers an easy, convenient and integrated mobile money experience. We think this will open the way to making Mobile Money the everyday means of payment in our Pacific markets – from groceries, airtime top-up and utility bills, through to wages and government payments.”

Digicel has rolled out the new solution to the wider business district in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa. In the coming months, hundreds more contactless VeriFone payment terminals will be installed in the region and Digicel plans to introduce International Bill Payments and other new services to its unique payments system in the near future.

The next generation payments solution is the result of a partnership between Digicel, Verifone mWallet, and New Zealand-based currency exchange company, KlickEx. Digicel Mobile Money is supported by UNDP, PFIP and AusAid.

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