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(Nikkei BP Group)

(No.1 High-Tech News Site in Japanese)

  • NTT to Introduce Smart Card-Based Public Phones in March
  • January 27, 1999 (TOKYO) — Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. said that it has applied for approval to introduce a noncontact smart card (or IC card) and a public telephone to use such a new smart card.
    Its application was submitted to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

    The telecom giant plans to install 1,000 smart card-based public telephones at major train stations, airports and hotels in Tokyo, Osaka and other large cities and surrounding areas starting as early as March 1. The company will later install the telephone systems in ordinance-designated cities, prefectural capitals and other major cities nationwide.

    It aims to install at least 400,000 units in five years, a company spokesman said.

    “With the development of this smart card-based public phone system, we can create new business opportunities,” said Masao Matsuo, senior manager of the public telephone service department of NTT’s Service Marketing and Support Headquarters.

    NTT is examining the smart card-based public telephone with simultaneous use of two smart cards. In this application, a user will insert a smart card that functions as a prepaid telephone card and another card for member users together into a public telephone.

    Telephone charges will be collected from the first smart card while information on the user’s billing history will be obtained from the second smart card. In this way, online ticket sales and other similar online services making use of instant settlement will be realized, Matsuo said.

    The application of a smart card for public telephones will offer many advantages, the NTT spokesman said.

    For example, NTT has stopped issuing large denomination telephone cards to cope with forged cards, however, a smart card will allow longer calls. NTT’s telephone card with the largest denomination is 1,000 yen (US$8.80).

    For the smart card for public telephone systems, a dedicated center will manage remaining available amounts for each user. When a user inserts a smart card into a public telephone, an individual identification number recorded in the smart card will be confirmed at the center. The center will then display the remaining available amount for the user on a display screen.

    This system will prevent unauthorized utilization of public telephones because the center will identify any use of a forged smart card.

    Also, NTT plans to equip the new smart card with the capability to record telephone numbers, using free space in the card’s memory. If telephone numbers are registered on a dedicated public telephone in advance, a caller can dial the registered numbers by touching just a few keys. One smart card can register up to 10 telephone numbers, and data on the registered numbers can be transferred.

    However, the smart card has some drawbacks. For example, the production costs of smart cards will be higher than those of traditional magnetic telephone cards.

    NTT is preparing to launch smart cards in three amounts: 1,000 yen, 2,000 yen (US$17.60) and 3,000 yen (US$26.40), and will sell the smart cards in smaller denominations, such as 300 yen (US$2.60) and 500 yen (US$4.40) upon receipt of orders.

    The smart card will have an effective period of up to five and a half years. Users will need to pay about 100 yen (US$0.90) to replace an expired smart card.

    NTT will phase out magnetic prepaid phone cards and phase in the new smart cards in part based on a survey on frequency of use and other details.

    (Nikkei Multimedia)

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