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Telefonica Germany starts bonking with friends

Slow steps towards making cash history

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Telefonica customers in Germany who have a Samsung NFC phone will be able to pay by bonk from next month as the operator starts "friendly user" testing as a prelude to national rollout.

Any customer with a Galaxy SIII or Ace 2 will be able to sign up, receiving a replacement SIM which can host an instance of the operator-owned mPass prepaid wallet, but the SIM has the capacity to hold instances of other credit and debit cards so represents a real step towards proper electronic wallets.

"Children will only know from history books what a wallet and hard cash are," said Telefonica Germany CEO René Schuster during the launch the product, which builds on the mPass-hosting stickers which have been around since October last year.

mPass is jointly owned by the operators Telefonica, Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom, so we should expect to see pre-paid offerings from the other two quite soon, but Telefonica is leading the pack even if this launch will only be open to those who volunteer and have the required hardware already.

Those users will get the SIM, and an updated version of the O2 Wallet application which already provides person-to-person transfers based on cloud-stored details, but the new version will allow pay-by-bonk in retailers - many of whom already have the necessary hardware. The increasingly ubiquitous vouchers will be added to the German product over the summer.

Vouchers are important as that's how the network operators intend to fund the whole thing. Card issuers will pay rent for space on the SIM, but revenue from vouchers is central to the business model, which is why the UK operators have banded together to create Weve (a cross-operator point of contact for advertisers).

The Weve model is likely to be copied elsewhere, not least thanks to Weve getting the EU to agree that such things are not anti-competitive, but for the moment the German operators will operate independently to bring bonking to the masses, and trying to make money from it too. ®

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