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UK mobile operators join forces on mobile wallet

A joint venture pushing NFC technology will launch before the end of the year

Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone plan to create a joint venture in the U.K. that will allow users to pay for goods using NFC-equipped phones, they said on Thursday.

The goal is to launch the joint venture before the end of the year, as long as it is cleared by U.K. competition authorities, according to a statement. If they stick to an open approach, the venture will likely be approved, according to Paolo Pescatore, analyst at CCS Insight.

Just like with previously announced mobile wallet projects based on NFC (Near Field Communications), consumers will be able to use their mobiles to pay for goods, services and travel. Consumers can also expect to get offers and coupons delivered directly to their phone, the operators said.

The joint venture will deliver the technology required for the adoption of mobile wallet and payments. It will work regardless of which NFC-enabled mobile phone, or mobile network consumers are using.

The operators are hoping to gain greater control by offering a single payment platform, CCS Insight said in a research note. For the project to become a success, backing all parts of the ecosystem will be key, it said. So now the operators need to prove themselves and gather support from phone makers, banks, card companies and retailers, Pescatore said.

Besides payments, the joint venture will also provide a single platform for advertisers and media agencies that are interested in the booming smartphone market. Just like mobile payments, mobile advertising is a hot trend. Because of the complexity of mobile payments, this part of the joint venture will probably be realized first, according to Pescatore.

The worldwide mobile advertising revenue is forecast to reach US$3.3 billion in 2011, more than double the $1.6 billion generated in 2010, Gartner said on Thursday.

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