Barclaycard, Orange, and T-Mobile have set an early summer date to launch their near-field communications payment system, in which people can make purchases by waving a mobile phone near a payment station.
Near-field communications (NFC) systems require a lot of technology to be developed and deployed at the same time. Most obviously to a user, they require payment stations and mobile phones with processors that can communicate wirelessly. Less obviously, a back-end infrastructure is required to link the local payment with the necessary computers for processing it.
NFC chips are a rarity in mobile phones today, but they're an up-and-coming feature. Samsung's Nexus S Android phone has one, for example, and next-generation iPhone and iPad designs are reported to support NFC, too.
Running the new system are Barclaycard, part of the Barclays financial services company, and Everything Everywhere, the combined T-Mobile UK and Orange UK mobile phone service provider jointly owned by Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom.
"Orange and Barclaycard customers will be the first to be able to use their mobiles to make payments on the high street wherever contactless payments are accepted," boasted Gerry McQuade, Everything Everywhere's chief development officer, in a statement. "This is part of our wider strategy to redefine what people use their mobiles for, with mobile payments being the start."
Unafraid to set high expectations, he added, "This is the beginning of a revolution in how we pay for things on the high street. It's a cultural shift that is as important as the launch of the personal credit card or ATMs."
Barclaycard said the system will permit use of chip-enabled cards for purchasing as well. Barclaycard and Orange announced the partnership in 2009.
Supplying some of the technology behind the scenes is Gemalto, a company involved in secure technology used in smart cards, passports, and the SIM cards used to identify mobile phones.