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GSM Association Calls for NFC-Enabled Cell Phones

The mobile service provider association has called for Near Field Communications functionality to be built into commercially available mobile handsets in mid-2009, but the plan is unlikely to become a reality unless service providers begin placing orders.
By Claire Swedberg
"The NFC Forum appreciates this development," Preuss says, "We're pretty happy that our members are taking this action." Infrastructure is now in place to enable the use of such NFC phones, he adds, with about 300,000 NFC readers at point-of-sale locations already deployed across the United States by ViVOtech, and NFC-enabled door locks across Europe provided by VingCard.

According to Betoin, results from the Pay-Buy-Mobile pilots have proven that consumers are more enthusiastic about the NFC capabilities in mobile phones than they are about previous technologies, such as Bluetooth and camera phones. "People really found this technology convenient," he says. "We had tremendous feedback."

Until now, the production of NFC-enabled phones has been stalled, in what Betoin calls a "chicken and egg" scenario. "Vendors were waiting for a clear signal from the telecommunication companies," he explains, "and the telcos were waiting for a viable answer from prototypes [that proved the technology worked]." Now, he adds, with the pilots completed and data coming in, that clear signal from the telecommunications firms has arrived.

The Pay-Buy-Mobile trials took place in eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Turkey and the United States, while further pilots are currently planned across 14 additional countries. One recent example is Philippine mobile network operator Smart Communications (SMART), which has begun a Pay-Buy-Mobile trial project using Nokia NFC-enabled mobile phones, MasterCard's contactless payment platform and Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) SIM cards.

Despite the pilots and GSMA's latest call for NFC phones from vendors, Collins says, it will ultimately be the mobile network operators that influence the phone industry to commercialize NFC technology by purchasing the handsets. "When MNOs are ready to start ordering the handsets, there will still be a lag to finalize designs and customer requirements," he states. "That would mean, even if orders were placed today, a mid-2009 deadline would be difficult."

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