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NFC is top, says GSMA, and put us in charge ... please?

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The world's mobile operators are committed to mobile payments using Near Field Communications, according to the trade body that is pitching to put itself at the centre of the ecosystem.

The GSMA would like to remind everyone that it should be at the centre of any standardising process, and that by building their own infrastructures, the network operators risk fragmenting the ecosystem. According to the trade body, operators should leave everything to the GSMA to ensure worldwide compatibility.

The release, described by NFC World as "one of the strangest press releases we've seen", contains almost no information. We learn only that the GSMA "will develop the necessary certification and testing standards to ensure global interoperability of NFC services", which would make a lot more sense if there weren't already several bodies doing that already.

GlobalPlatform provides internationally adopted standards for updating SIMs over the air, and is extending that to embrace SIMs equipped with a secure element needed to facilitate NFC payments. The EMV group (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) extends the GlobalPlatform specs to cover the transaction process, and being backed by the payment processors surely outranks a consortium of GSM operators.

Not that the traditional payment processors are beyond being bypassed – in the UK, O2 has made it clear that its "O2 Money" brand will get an e-banking licence and handle its own payments. In America, the ISIS consortium, comprising AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon, is backed by Barclaycard but has its own logo – and now NFC Times tells us that in Germany O2 and Vodafone are about to sign up to the NFC incarnation of Deutsche Telekom's mPass service, which already provides mobile payments secured by SMS to customers of all three networks.

So with mobile operators, existing payment processors and new consortia all vying for space in the mobile-commerce industry, the GSMA is keen to stake out a homestead, though the industry body that used to be so important may find all the good pitches are already taken. ®

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