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True Group deploys near-field from the SIM

Not waiting for NFC handsets

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TrueMove, the mobile arm of Thailand's media conglomerate the True Corporation, is deploying near-field payments and ticketing, but they're not waiting for compatible handsets as they've managed to squeeze the technology into their SIMs.

Embedding the technology into the SIM gives the operator complete control, and means it will work with just about every handset on the market. But getting a radio connection from the SIM to the outside world isn't easy, especially as most SIMs are sandwiched between the battery and the circuit boards.

Two years ago Telecom Italia announced they would have a Zigbee-compatible SIM launched by the end of the year, and we're still waiting for Blue Sky to demonstrate their GPS-capable SIM a year after they promised it - but radio communications with the SIM is very difficult.

True reckons it's got round this problem by attaching an antenna to the SIM, which is then stuck to the outside face of the battery. It admits this won't work with every handset, but it will work with a great many and gets round a lot of the problems associated with NFC.

The user interacts with the SIM through SIM Toolkit applications, which are text menu-based, but have the advantage of being usable on even the cheapest handset. TrueMove has signed deals with cinemas, shops and fast-food places to accept payments using "Touch SIM", as well as making all its own staff use the system to get into their office.

To help users understand the system TrueMove is sponsoring the local version of Fame Academy, Academy Fantasia. The contestants will use the system to open doors, lockers and rooms, and fans will be able to vote by placing their phone near a picture of their idol in TrueMove shops.

Punters in Thailand can sign up to the service from Friday, and early members get 16 free votes in the Academy Fantasia. While the rest of the world waits for some NFC-equipped handsets and results of yet more trials, Thailand can start working out if users actually want proximity systems, and how they use them. ®

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