GSM Mobile Operators Show Support for NFL

GSM Association members have pledged their commitment to implementing near-field communications (NFC) technology in some markets by 2012.

In support of greater mobile phone payments adoption, the global mobile industry association said that it will develop the necessary certification and testing standards to ensure global interoperability of commercial NFC services.

Operators signed up to the commitment include América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Vodafone.

Franco Bernabè, GSMA chairman and chief executive of Telecom Italia, said that NFC is best known for its role in enabling mobile payments, but goes far beyond that.

"NFC represents an important innovation opportunity, and will facilitate a wide range of interesting services and applications for consumers, such as mobile tickets, mobile coupons, the exchange of information and content, access to cars, homes, hotels, offices, car parks and much more," he said.

The GSMA explained that development will focus on the SIM card as the secure element to provide payment authentication, security and portability.

Bernabè added that different approaches to NFC would only fragment the market.

"By uniting around a single standardised approach to mobile NFC, and by collaborating across the entire ecosystem, our industry will continue to develop the compelling services that customers demand," he said.

NFC-enabled SIM cards can issued by mobile networks to subscribers, as in Orange's contactless payments partnership with Barclaycard. The same functionality can be added to existing phones via adapted microSD cards or stickers issued by banks and other organisations.

The GSMA announcement comes just a week after its members met at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where RIM chief executive Jim Balsillie confirmed that BlackBerry devices will follow Google and Nokia's lead and support NFC payments at some point.

Meanwhile, analysts have speculated that Apple's next-generation iPhone and iPad devices will have NFC capabilities.

A recent Frost & Sullivan report said that the global payment value for NFC will exceed €110bn (£92bn) in 2015, supporting the GSMA's claim that momentum behind the technology is growing.

Rob Bamforth, principal communications and convergence analyst at Quocirca, welcomed this move from the GSMA.

"It's good that they are talking about more than just standards," he said. " They're actually talking about them being used to deliver applications people might actually want to use."

Bamforth added that mobile, finance and retail companies need to pull together in the same direction to ensure widespread NFC adoption because NFC is "not a compelling app in itself".

"The consumer will only pay for it if it enables access to services that they see as having some value," he added.

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