Nokia, carriers join mobile wallet plan

Aim is to provide unified service that would allow retail customers to use their cell phone as a wireless wallet.

Nokia, the world's biggest handset maker, and wireless-service operators have solidified a global initiative to turn mobile phones into wallets, a wireless telecommunications-interest group said on Wednesday.

Consumers will be able to use a phone as a wallet or as an access card simply by waving it over a wireless reader--and in some cases punching a personal-identification number, or PIN, into the phone--similar to how travelers in Tokyo and London access public transport.

Large European and Asian carriers KPN, Maxis Communications, Mobilkom Austria, O2, Orange, SFR, SingTel, SKT, and Wind joined 14 mobile operators which initiated the project several months ago.

Nokia, alongside two other major mobile phone makers, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, will embed a wireless chip into its phones.

The world's biggest payment card company, MasterCard, is also involved in the initiative, which is cheaper and much faster than other wireless payment experiments, like those using SMS text messages.

Trials with the new standard are set to start in October.

"After several fragmented initiatives, the mobile phone industry is now uniting around a single approach to enabling the mobile phone to be used, instead of cash or plastic credit card, at point of sale," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association, the global trade association for mobile phone operators.

China Mobile, Vodafone, Cingular--owned by AT&T--and Telefonica already support the common wireless chip format on the mobile phones they distribute for their networks.

Together with chip makers NXP and Sony, which pioneered the contactless chip called Near Field Communication (NFC), companies plan a global standard for electronic wallets in mobile phones.

Mobile phones are already widely used as electronic wallets in Japan, where more than 12.6 million consumers already have their credit cards embedded in a chip in mobile phones.

Mifare--developed by NXP, which was formerly known as Philips Semiconductors--and Felica, developed by Sony, are two of the most widely used formats used for access cards for buildings and public transport as well as mobile phones which double as electronic wallets.

"By combining this secure chip with an NFC chip, a universal contactless IC (integrated circuit) platform can be created for mobile phones," Mifare and Felica said in a statement.

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