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Russian i-Free announces that it is partnering with Tinkoff Credit Systems Bank and MasterCard to launch “Mobile MasterCard PayPass”, a service billed as the first NFC-enabled wallet in the CIS. Users in Russia and CIS countries with NFC-enabled smartphones will have the opportunity to download the Mobile MasterCard PayPass, which will allow them to make purchases at NFC terminals. Commenting on the launch of this service, co-founder of i-Free Kirill Gorynya says that they hope that this new service will encourage other companies to take advantage of NFC capabilities and develop NFC-based services.
I spoke with Tatiana Milacheva, a representative from the company, and she told me that they expect that there will be 1 million NFC-enabled smartphones in Russia by the end of this year. Users with NFC-capable phones will have access to three services: the Mobile MasterCard PayPass card from Tinkoff Credit Systems Bank, transport cards from some Russian regional centers, and geolocation-based coupons. The services are only available to a limited number of users, but that they are pushing to make them available for wide commercial use. With any NFC-based payment service, the phone is basically useless without a physical terminal for a connection. On that note, Milacheva tells me that there are currently about 15,000 PayPass terminals in more than 20 regions of Russia and that they are working to expand these figures. The company says that, in addition to downloading the Mobile MasterCard PayPass card, users can currently pay for goods and services from within the application. In other words, users are able to buy tickets for public transportation or purchase a coupon and pay for it from an international bank card. To have full use of the Mobile MasterCard PayPass, users are not required to be members of Tinkoff Credit Systems Bank. In terms of compatible phones, we are told that the system is integrated with the Philips W336, HTC One, and HTC One SV.
One of the next advances in the mobile sphere is money-transfer technology. We have seen various approaches to this like the NFC-based Google Wallet, Apple’s Passbook, and Square. From Russia, we have written about mobile transfer-service MOBI.Money and about Square-imitator LifePay. I asked Milacheva about the direct competition that i-Free has in this market and she said that she believes that they stand alone, as Passbook does not deal with NFC and Google has not taken Wallet into the CIS markets. Nevertheless, as smartphones become more prevalent, we are increasingly seeing efforts to improve the money-transfer process. Each new way is promised to be more secure than the last and it will be interesting to see how smartphone users in Russia take to this technology unveiled by i-Free.
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