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Orange has won the race to get UK punters paying with a wave of the phone, launching its Barclaycard-backed Quick Tap service today on the back of MasterCard's PayPass network.

As of this morning you can use a mobile phone to pay for stuff in the UK, assuming it's the right mobile phone, and you have a Barclaycard account, and you're prepared to pay in advance to charge up the "Quick Tap" system, and you can find one of the 50,000 locations in the UK that will accept such a payment. Once all that is in place then you're good to spend as much as £15 with a wave of the handset, with the user about to specify if a PIN should be required.

All the mobile operators, and most of the manufacturers, will be offering this kind of functionality in the next six months or so, but Orange is the first brand to have handsets in shops: or, more accurately, "a handset" in the shops.

That handset is the Samsung Tocco Quick Tap: a Samsung Tocco Lite with NFC, and SWP, dropped into the case. SWP (Single Wire Protocol) means Orange can put the Quick Tap application on the SIM, and that one could take the SIM to another handset to move the prepaid account. That's pretty theoretical at the moment, but it's how the operators would like proximity payments to work.

Everything Everywhere, of which Orange is half, said in January it would be launching such a service in collaboration with Barclaycard this summer, and sure enough the Orange Quick Tap account can only be charged up using a Barclaycard or Orange Credit Card account.

MasterCard is providing the payment infrastructure for the service, via its PayPass network (so don't try and use your Quick Tap at the Olympic Games, where only Visa's PayWave will work). The payment processing and account management platform will be managed by Barclaycard, but provided by Gemalto who'll also be providing the SIMs needed.

Barclaycard is handing over an electronic tenner to anyone prepared to be at the cutting edge of mobile payments, and ten per cent cash back on everything spent in the first three months, which should make the service a little more attractive despite the lack of hardware support.

The infrastructure and services needed for paying with a wave of the mobile phone have arrived, now it's up to us to decide if we really want them while we start exploring some of the properly cool stuff NFC can do. ®

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