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Wells Fargo hops NFC train

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Wells Fargo is joining the effort spearheaded by Visa to help NFC break in the difficult American market.

The addition of Wells Fargo, reported by Reuters, means that three US banks - the others being Bank of America and US Bancorp - are now working with Visa to proximity-payment enable mobile phones, bypassing the network operators and aiming to have a commercial service launched next year.

Americans already have proximity payment systems, but these trials are using a MicroSD NFC card dropped into a phone handset (or lashed to the outside of an iPhone), with an on-phone application being used to manage the NFC data and services.

As NFC World points out: if Visa is using the In2Pay platform from its partner DeviceFidelity then the MicroSD card contains everything needed to host the service - a kind of SIM-substitute that can (just like a SIM) be moved between (smartphone) handsets as the user changes. That cuts the network operator out entirely - but the network operators had their chance and muffed it.

It's not just about payments, though. Once the NFC hardware is in place it's perfectly possible for other companies to provide NFC services (loyalty schemes for example) piggybacking on the bank's hardware, as long as the bank approves it.

Visa might also decide to allow unapproved smartphone applications access to the NFC capability, if not the secure module, which opens up the platform for all the cool stuff NFC is capable of once the killer application has been found. ®

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