China Mobile, China Unicom back NFC technology

The two operators have 800 million mobile users

China Mobile and China Unicom, two of the country's largest mobile operators, said they plan to bring SIM card-based Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to their customers.

The GSM Association (GSMA), which has been working on global standardization of NFC, announced on Tuesday that the two Chinese mobile operators were backing the technology. The companies join 43 other mobile operators in the world that have also pledged support to SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) based NFC services and products, GSMA said.

The adoption of NFC in China is significant as the country has 940 million total mobile connections, exceeding the total number of connections in Europe and the U.S. combined, according to GSMA data. China Mobile and China Unicom together have 800 million users.

China is leading a surge in mobile connections in the Asia Pacific region. Half of the world's 6 billion mobile subscribers will be in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of this year, according to a study released Tuesday.

The region will have 4.1 billion connections by 2015, when it will also account for 40 per cent of mobile data traffic worldwide, according to the study produced by GSMA in collaboration with A.T. Kearney. China had the largest number of connections in 2010, followed by India and Indonesia.

NFC technology would allow phones to become mobile wallets. Users could make purchases simply by waving their phone across special contactless readers in a store.

China Mobile has 633 million customers, making it the world's largest mobile operator. In a statement, China Mobile said it had the capacity to drive market adoption of NFC with its customers.

China Unicom, which has 188 million mobile users, also said in a statement that the company wants to ensure NFC technology will be interoperable among different mobile operators so that customers can roam with it anywhere.

While NFC technology has been mainly viewed as a way to allow for secure payments, the technology could also be used for secure access to hotels and cars, as well as a way for users to keep electronic tickets or coupons on their phones. Operators want to develop NFC technology on SIM cards, rather than solely on the phones themselves.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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