Telefonica O2 plans commercial NFC services

Having conducted numerous technology trials and consumer pilots, Telefónica O2 has confirmed that Spain, the UK and the Czech Republic are likely to be first with commercial NFC payment services.

Each of these countries has the potential in late 2010 or early next year to launch handset-based payment services, said Michiel Van Eldik, Telefónica's group director for new business and innovation. "In these countries, we are seeing more and more evidence of market readiness and we at Telefónica are most advanced in our developments."

Evidence of this intent has been the company's limited rollout of NFC-enabled handsets in Czech city of Pilsen. The Nokia 6212 NFC phones have been pre-loaded for use with local Plzeň transport services enabling residents to pay for public transport, purchase tickets to local events, make payments in local stores and receive special cardholder-only discounts.

However, Telefónica claims that reliable NFC handsets are still a potential stumbling block. The company experienced problems during an NFC trial conducted at the Barcelona MWC in February when using the Samsung S5230 NFC handset but the operator said that it had since been working with Samsung and the NFC SIM supplier Giesecke & Devrient to resolve the performance issues.

Speaking at the GSMA's Mobile Money Summit in Rio de Janeiro last week, Pablo Montesano, Telefónica's director for new businesses, estimated that mobile financial services could ultimately generate US$1.5 billion for the company.

"The last 18 months have been important to our understanding," he explained. "We consider financial services one of the biggest opportunities within the group."

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