Samsung, Visa to offer mobile payments at 2012 Olympics

They expect to launch the program in time for the Olympics

Samsung and Visa will roll out a mobile payments program in London in time for the Olympic Games next year, they said Thursday.

The companies will make special phones for the Olympics that users will be able to hold in front of a reader to make a payment.

The program could help build momentum behind near field communication, which uses short-range wireless technology to transmit data over short distances.

Other companies trying to further the use of NFC have faced challenges, however, and Samsung and Visa may also face some hurdles.

For instance, to use the companies' payment technology, people will have to buy a special phone with a Visa-enabled SIM card. They'll then have to find a store with a reader device that accepts payments from the phones.

Samsung and Visa say they'll give the phones to athletes they are sponsoring at the games, and sell them to the general public through operators and other distributors. While the phones will be available only in the U.K., the companies say they expect to expand the service to Europe and other regions.

Rival handset maker Nokia was once an enthusiastic backer of NFC, forming a joint venture company with Giesecke & Devrient to develop services around the technology. A few years later Nokia sold its share in the company.

There have been numerous tests of NFC payment systems around the world but few have resulted in commercial services. However, there has been renewed interest in NFC since Google built support for the technology into Android.

Separately on Thursday, Google said it had joined the NFC Forum, an association that backs NFC, deepening its involvement with the technology.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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