O2: NFC is ready to launch


O2 UK chief executive Ronan Dunne said today that the network’s Near Field Communications (NFC) technology was ready to launch but a mass rollout was pending support from large retailers and handset manufacturers.

The network began trialling NFC in late 2007 with 500 customers who used a selected Nokia handset to make payments at certain retailers and travel the London Underground network with transactions made via Barclays bank. It is now in discussions with large retailers for the deployment of the necessary electronic point of sale units and with handset manufacturers to enable NFC on all future devices.

O2 is said to be no longer working with Barclays, having selected rival NatWest to partner its new O2 Money prepaid credit card service, announced today. However O2 UK customer director Tim Sefton said the partnership with NatWest didn’t preclude future partnerships with other banks.

Said Dunne: “From our trials we gathered that customers love NFC. The challenges are the deployment of electronic point of sale systems across mass retail, so we are talking to large retailers and the transport industry about this.

“The technology is ready. We will see progress in this space under the O2 brand in the not too distant future. It is on every handset manufacturer’s roadmap so it’s not a case of if but when.”

However Dunne warned that potential obstacles would be if NFC would increase the cost of a handset or if there were problems with mass retail deployment.

Sefton added: “All the banks are committed to rolling this out and as that happens more parts of the ecosystem will come together, such as handset manufacturers.”