GSMA backs global NFC drive

Michael Carroll
23 Feb 2011

Major Asian telcos are backing a major new NFC drive that aims to tackle the growing threat of Apple and Google to operator’s business.

China Unicom, KT, SK Telecom and Softbank are among 17 carriers that have committed to launching commercial NFC services in the next 12 months, as operators seek to tap a market that Frost & Sullivan predicts could be worth $110 billion by 2015.

The GSM Association (GSMA) is supporting the drive by developing certification and test standards covering the use of the SIM card as the secure element in NFC handsets, in a move that should ensure commercial services are interoperable.

Franco Bernabe, GSMA chair and chief of Telecom Italia, notes the technology can be used for more than just mobile payments, with potential applications including “mobile ticketing, mobile couponing, the exchange of information and content, control access to cars, homes offices, car parks and much more.”

By working alone, the industry risked creating fragmented NFC services, Bernabe states, noting that the collaboration will see the development of “compelling services that customers demand.”

Despite playing the ‘fragmentation’ card, industry watchers speculate the collaboration is more to do with staving off the growth of Apple and Google, noting the move could place operators front and center of consumer’s attention once more, Bloomberg reports.

However, the move will potentially pitch operators into direct competition with credit card firms including MasterCard and established money transfer brand Western Union, which are both seeking mobile opportunities.

Giesecke & Devrient and NXP Semiconductor last week claimed to have cleared a major barrier to production of NFC handsets, after validating joint security software covering interfaces and SIMs.

The GSMA NFC push comes on the back of several renewed efforts around the technology, including a m-wallet collaboration from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile USA. SK Telecom, KDDI and Softbank flagged their NFC ambitions at Mobile World Congress by announcing a payments trial.

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