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Pay-by-phone commerce coming closer

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The global trade body for the mobile industry and a European monetary organisation have signed a pact to speed up the deployment of handset payment services in Europe.

The GSM Association (GSMA) and the European Payments Council (EPC), which represents 8000 banks in the EU, will now jointly co-ordinate efforts to get phones paying for just about everything, from impulse purchases in shops to restaurant meals.

The programme has been called, simply, the Pay-Buy-Mobile initiative. But, in order to ensure such services run smoothly, the pair recognises the need for a “Trusted Service Manager” clearing house to help manage cash-flow between banks and network operators.

Although the partners haven't said which form or forms of contactless payment technology they envisage being used by mobile phone users, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Universal Integrated Credit Card (UICC) have been hinted at.

UICC is a smartcard used in mobile terminals in GSM and UMTS networks to allow them to communicate securely with the banks. NFC devices can be built directly into mobile phones to allow short-range wireless communications between, say, a mobile phone and reader, much like the Oyster card system used on the London Underground.

In Japan, mobile-phone based payments are already thriving. So much so that Japanese carrier KDDI and the Bank of Tokyo recently jointly created a bank specifically designed to create accounts for anyone using cashless-enabled mobile phones.

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