GSMA Banks On NFC Mobile Payments

Vodafone, Orange, O2 and others have declared they will launch NFC mobile payment services by 2012

Major mobile operators, including the operators of the T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2 brands in the UK, on Monday announced a commitment to rolling out near-field communications (NFC) payment services in “select markets” by next year.

The announcement is the latest indication of momentum building behind NFC, which also has the support of major smartphone players such as Google and RIM. Deutsche Telekom, which operates T-Mobile in the UK, said the push towards NFC is in part a way of fighting back against the power of Apple and Google, which have dipped into smartphone users’ pockets with their app stores.

Billing relationship

“Google’s massive, but Google does not have a billing relationship with 99 percent of its customers,” Deutsche Telekom chief technology and innovation officer Ed Kozel told Bloomberg in a Saturday report.

The total payment value for NFC globally will reach more than €110 billion (£92bn) in 2015, according to Frost and Sullivan figures cited by the GSMA.

The operators’ role will be focused on the deployment of standardised, NFC-capable SIM cards, according to the GSMA.

“The operator community is focused on driving the standardised deployment of mobile NFC, using the SIM as the secure element to provide authentication, security and portability,” the GSMA stated.

To this end the GSMA said it will develop certification and testing standards for ensuring interoperability.

“This interoperability is critical to the widespread adoption of NFC, enabling users to benefit from NFC services around the world, regardless of operator network or device type,” the organisation stated.

Broader shift

Franco Bernabe, chief executive of Telecom Italia and chairman the GSM Association (GSMA), said the move toward NFC had broader implications as well, enabling services such as the exchange of information and content, as well as couponing and ticketing.

“NFC is perhaps best known for its role in enabling mobile payments, but its applications go far beyond that,” Barnabe said in a statement. “NFC represents an important innovation opportunity and will facilitate a wide range of interesting services and applications for consumers, such as mobile ticketing, mobile couponing, the exchange of information and content, control access to cars, homes, hotels, offices, car parks and much more.”

The operators who signed the statement include América Móvil, Axiata Group Berhad, Bharti, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, KT Corporation, MTS, Orange, Qtel Group, SK Telecom, Softbank Mobile, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telekom Austria Group, Telenor and Vodafone, among others.

NFC enables the wireless transfer of data over short distances, and is used in payment systems such as London Transport’s Oyster card. It appeared in mainstream smartphones in January with Google’s Nexus S, and is to be included in most upcoming RIM BlackBerrys.

HP also uses the technology in its WebOS devices, while ZTE introduced NFC in its Skate device at the Mobile World Congress last week.

Apple is rumoured to be eyeing NFC for inclusion in the next iPhone release, and recently hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier from startup mFoundry.