Unisys Corp., based in Blue Bell, Pa., and the Swiss firm Ascom Autelco said they have completed the first phase in a $27 million project to boost Switzerland's smart card market.
The companies, with Telecom Postal Telephone and Telegraph of Switzerland, have modified 5,100 pay phones to accept smart cards and installed 2,400 new public phones that accept the cards, which are embedded with computer chips.
The project will enable users of the Swiss PTT's Postcard debit cards to pay for calls with smart cards, which then debit the charges directly to their PTT accounts.
Many Swiss nationals use PTT cards instead of checking accounts, because the PTT accounts are free while banks charge high fees for checking accounts.
PTT Postcard debit cards have been available for six years in Switzerland, though the chip has not been widely accepted elsewhere. Consumer use of the phones is expected to help accelerate digital cash acceptance.
The Swiss PTT Postcard is carried by 1.3 million consumers in Switzerland. The cards, which have a magnetic stripe on the back, have been cobranded with the MasterCard logo for the past year and a half, giving it wide acceptance.
It can be used at bank machines, stores, train stations, and post offices throughout Switzerland and the rest of Europe.
The second stage of the project, set to begin next March, will introduce a special prepaid phone card that can be used at pay phones and other points of sale throughout Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. This new stored value chip card, which will not be linked to an account, will replace the existing optical card system currently used in Swiss pay phones.
Ascom Autelco, based in Switzerland, with expertise in vending machines, pay telephones, and computer networking, has provided the telephones, which are connected to Unisys servers that handle transactions and communicate with existing information systems at the Swiss PTT.