By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated April 25, 2007.
Because of feature-packed cell phones, users can leave their camera, music player, or portable game machine at home. If a growing consortium of cell-phone makers and operators is successful, users throughout the world will someday be able to forget their wallet as well.
The GSM Association (GSMA), a global trade group, announced Wednesday that Nokia, the world's largest mobile-phone maker, and 10 mobile operators are joining an initiative to create a "mobile wallet" standard.
The "Pay-Buy Mobile" project was started in February by 14 operators, including AT&T (formerly Cingular Wireless), China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo, Telecom Italia, and others. In addition to Nokia, the new participants include European and Asian operators KPN, Maxis Communications, mobilkom austria, O2, Orange, SFR, SingTel, SKT, Vodafone, and Wind.
Waving the Phone To Pay
The project seeks to create a global standard based on an embedded, wireless chip that allows the owner to use a phone in places where one might otherwise use a regular credit card. To make a payment, a user would simply wave the phone over a wireless reader, or punch in a PIN number. A similar method of transaction is currently available for travelers on public transportation in London and Tokyo.
Nokia, Samsung, and LG said that they will embed the chip in their phones. Vodafone, AT&T, Bell South, and Telefonica already support the chips on the phones that are distributed for their networks.
GSMA has said that the initiative will build on the work of the credit card companies, which have created a global standard for payment. MasterCard is already involved.
Trials for the global standard will begin in South Korea and unspecified Asian and European countries later this year. The Korean test, led by KTF, will include end-to-end trials that involve handset manufacturers, circuit card manufacturers, banks, credit card providers, and retailers.
South Korea is one of the world's most active marketplaces for mobile transactions. According to GSMA, that country already has some 12 million handsets capable of making mobile payments, as well as 80,000 terminal payment machines in retailers.
The project, according to the GSMA, will work on defining a common approach to using near-field communications to link mobile devices with payment systems. "Together with a SIM/Universal Integrated Circuit Card in a mobile handset," the GSMA said in a statement, near-field communications can be used "to enable a wide range of secure, interoperable, and transparent services, such as credit and debit payments."
Sony and NXP, whose formats are now used for access to buildings and to public transportation, will join the efforts to develop a global standard. NXP, formerly Philips Semiconductors, developed Mifare and Sony developed Felicia.
The GSM Association represents 700 GSM mobile-phone operators in 218 countries and, according to the association, its members serve 82 percent of the world's mobile-phone users.