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China Mobile to reveal how 10 MILLION people will BONK

Will slip new NFC platform into pockets in 2013

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The world's largest mobile operator, China Mobile, will launch its NFC platform on 5 December, showing the technology it plans to push into 10 million Chinese palms next year.

The SIM-based platform will, according to NFC World, be launched at the operator's Worldwide Developers Conference next week, and get into punters' pockets by February - just in time for Chinese New Year - ready to host bank cards, bus tickets and corporate IDs backed by all the companies China Mobile could browbeat into supporting the platform.

Chinese New Year, which in 2013 falls on 10 February, is the big buying time for mobiles in the People's Republic so the schedule isn't very surprising.

Prior to embracing NFC, China Mobile mucked about with a proprietary radio standard called RF SIM. That used 2.4GHz and relied on power drawn from the phone's battery to punch a radio signal through the phone's casing direct from the SIM chip, but then China (as a country) jumped enthusiastically aboard the NFC bandwagon and China Mobile seamlessly switched track.

The platform is SIM-based, using the SWP (Single Wire Protocol) to provide the SIM with secure access to NFC hardware built into the handset; the same standards being deployed around the world. For most companies the motivation for such compliance is cheaper hardware driven by economies of scale, but for China Mobile (with its 700 million customers) it's equally about building up expertise that can be sold abroad.

NFC payments have been incredibly slow to take off, mostly because few people can see the point and no one gains enough to push the technology hard. China Mobile's deployment will increase handset support, and cement NFC and SWP as the preferred technologies, but what matters is if Chinese businesses will pay the operator to host their applications on the SIM. That's the only way NFC looks to be profitable for those who have to pay for it, and while the technologies have been shown to work, the business model remains unproven. ®

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