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UK network providers team up over m-commerce service

23 June 2011 - 09:59 by Mike Price

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A trio of the UK's most significant mobile networks are grouping together to push m-commerce and NFC technology in a big way over the coming months.

Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere are going to be partnering on the creation of SIM cards with built-in NFC (Near Field Communication) chips, which will allow virtually every mobile customer to access safe shopping online from mobiles and make contactless payments when they are out and about.

Creating so-called digital wallets for users of smartphones will allow for small payments to be made without the need for cash or card, although this is something which Google is also attempting to provide, so analysts see the three network's plans as direct competition for the search giant.

Within three years about £31 billion will be spent via m-commerce and a fifth of mobiles will come with NFC chips integrated as standard. Some believe that using SIM cards as the carrier for the NFC chip is actually a more secure option for safe shopping online, according to V3.co.uk.

The second advantage of sticking NFC technology into SIM cards is that users can simply swap their SIM into a new handset when they upgrade, rather than having to choose a model which has NFC built into it.

The trinity of network providers working together on m-commerce is being seen as a move made to prevent Google from cornering this emerging market and thus being in a position to take advantage of it as it becomes more lucrative in the coming years.

One aspect of the deal which is being discussed is how mobile marketing will be ramped up as networks become more attuned to what users want from m-commerce. The question of how bills will be paid and charges made remains to be answered, but solutions should surface soon.