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UK operators join forces to push mobile payments

Britain’s wireless carriers are creating a joint venture to speed up deployment of mobile payment services.

Orange-T-Mobile joint venture Everything Everywhere, Vodafone and Telefonica’s O2 said they aimed to create a mobile commerce system bringing together retailers, banks and advertisers.

Momentum is growing for services that let shoppers purchase small items by tapping their phone against a reader at the till, supported by chains like McDonald’s and Macy’s and driven by new technology in Google Android phones.

Last month, Google, Mastercard, Citigroup, Sprint and First Data unveiled an m-commerce service to start in US cities this summer. Mobile payments are already widely used in Japan and South Korea.

“The mobile phone has become the one item people really cannot be without,” Guy Laurence, chief executive of Vodafone UK, said. “In the near future, people will now start leaving their wallet at home.”

NXP Semiconductors, the world's biggest maker of the NFC chips that enable the contactless payments, expects 20 NFC-enabled phone models to be on the market by the end of the year, driven by the fast-growing popularity of Android.

The UK operators also aim to provide a single point of contact for retailers and advertisers to deliver virtual loyalty cards, discount coupons and advertising.

UK-based wireless research and analysis firm CCS Insight said: “Backing from financial institutions and retailers is crucial, and unified support from on-device advertising will increase its appeal.”

Orange has already launched a limited mobile payments scheme in Britain with Barclaycard. In Spain, Telefonica recently signed a deal to collaborate on NFC with Orange and Vodafone.

Further reading:

Check out E&T’s feature on Android, carry on regardless.

See E&T’s story wallet-in-a-phone launched in UK.

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