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O2 gets 225 guinea pigs drunk by phone

London NFC trial gets underway

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O2 has announced a trial of NFC-equipped Nokia handsets, which will incorporate an Oyster Card as well as a Barclaycard OneTouch contactless payment system, for 500 O2 customers.

The much expected plan will not see all 500 will be able to use the OneTouch capability. The lucky subset (225) will get £200 pre-loaded to encourage them to use the system which is accepted at Books etc, Eat, Yo Sushi, Coffee Republic, Krispy Kreme and, most importantly, Threshers. The rest will have to content themselves with £50 Oyster credit, £60 on their phone bill, and free entry to the blueroom bar at the O2.

But the debate about who owns the secure storage remains open. Most of the trial handsets will use secure storage on the handset (owned by Nokia), but a "limited number" will use the SIM (owned by O2) to store the financial applications.

SIM storage makes more sense, as users will be able to take their stored apps with them when they switch handsets - but that will require lots of standardisation work to operate properly, which will need to be driven by the network operators.

Unless network operators get themselves organised to control the secure storage required for proximity-payment systems then handset manufacturers will end up in charge, assuming the concept progresses beyond the trial stage.

This trial is intended to run for six months, though the companies involved would like to see it migrate rapidly to a commercial roll-out. That's not going to happen until the ownership issue is settled, and customers can be convinced there's a real advantage in having their payment system incorporated into their phone.

£200 to spend at Threshers might work, but free entry to the blueroom at the O2 isn't going to convince many to replace their plastic. ®

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