NTT DoCoMo will make its long-expected move into the consumer credit market later this month when it allows users to make up to 10,000 yen (US$84) per month in credit purchases with their mobile phones, it said Tuesday.
The DCMX service, to be available April 28, represents NTT DoCoMo’s biggest push yet to convince subscribers to use mobile terminals for electronic payments. It will also mark the Japanese operator’s debut as a credit card issuer.
The service will build on a fast-expanding network of noncontact smart card reader-writer terminals, which are already being deployed in stores across Japan. The terminals began appearing in shops late last year when NTT DoCoMo launched an electronic payments platform called “ID.”
The ID system is to be for touch-and-go payments what Visa and Mastercard are for plastic cards. Some Japanese credit card companies have already started offering ID-compatible cards to customers.
Several major retailers including some of Japan’s largest convenience store chains and general retailer Aeon have also announced support for the system. NTT DoCoMo expects around 150,000 terminals to be installed in retail outlets across Japan by this time next year.
The service will be rolled out in two phases. The initial DCMX Mini planned later this month will be available to most of the company’s 12 million customers who already possess one of its “osaifu keitai” (mobile wallet) cell phones. Users over 12 years of age will be able to use the system by downloading a Java applet into their phone and verifying their identity with their network PIN. NTT DoCoMo will provide a monthly credit line of 10,000 yen per month to all customers through this service.
In May, the full DCMX service will launch, requiring a more complex application and providing users with a conventional credit card in addition to the cell phone payment system. The service will offer Visa and Mastercard credit cards and a credit line of 200,000 yen per month.
“We are very earnest and serious about combing the small purchase market and mobile market,” said Takeshi Natsuno, NTT DoCoMo’s senior vice president of multimedia services, at a Tokyo news conference.
Vital to getting users to pull out their cell phones to make purchases will be a system that is as easy to use as possible. Purchases under 10,000 yen won’t require any verification when payment is made, while those over this amount will require the user to enter a PIN, said Natsuno. Signatures will be required only when using the companion DCMX plastic credit card, he said.
Because the system is linked with a telephone, some security functions not possible with conventional credit cards will be possible. Users will be able to remotely lock their handset should it be lost or stolen by dialing the phone from a preregistered number.
NTT DoCoMo will also soon start a service whereby its operators can remotely shut down such handsets, also closing access to e-mail, the phone’s address book and other personal services.
NTT DoCoMo is not new to the credit business. Users of its I-mode wireless Internet service can already charge up to 10,000 yen per month in shopping done through I-mode official sites. The DCMX Mini service, however, represents a significant expansion of this credit service.
-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service
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