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France Telecom Turns to Wireless Payments as It Battles With Apple, Google

Date: 12/17/2010 9:25:49 AM

France Telecom SA will enable its customers to pay for their rides on the Paris metro or for retail purchases with their mobile phones as it seeks to win ground in services from Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

France’s largest phone company said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that it will begin work on a new generation of SIM cards for so-called contactless payments. The company will work with handset manufacturers, and plans to get secured SIM cards in customers’ phones from the second half of next year. Phones with such technology, common in Japan, are used to make payments with a wave in front of a reader.

Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard, like executives at other phone companies, is searching for new revenue sources to avoid ceding the services market to Apple and Google, whose offerings dominate many users’ mobile experiences. With their billing systems, operators including Vodafone Group Plc and AT&T Inc. have targeted mobile payments.

“Mobile payments look like a strong opportunity to everybody, but nobody’s sure yet exactly how to capture it,” said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein Ltd. in London. “Apple and other handset manufacturers think that if they are first with the technology, they’ll take a cut of the revenue. Operators think the same.”

Google is introducing a platform for Near Field Communications, the technology that underpins contactless payment, into the newest version of its Android platform. Apple hired Benjamin Vigier, an NFC expert, in August as its product manager for mobile commerce, the New York Times reported.

At Stake

NFC isn’t the only technology in which operators and handset manufacturers may jockey to establish standards. The GSM Association, a trade group representing operators, began work in November on the development of “soft SIM’’ technology, which would make it easier for customers to switch providers by eliminating the need for a physical SIM card, after Apple proposed an effort of its own.

The stakes are high for companies looking for a piece of the mobile-payments market. The global value of goods purchased via mobile devices will more than double to about $200 billion in 2012, compared with just under $100 billion this year, according to Juniper Research.  Phone Card News Stats


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