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China Unicom to launch world’s first commercial single wire protocol based NFC service

The mobile operator has signed up five Chinese banks and five transport operators for the commercial launch of its NFC service, scheduled to take place during the second quarter of 2010.

PARTNERS: China Unicom is building an open NFC business model (Click to enlarge)

The gloves are officially off in the fight to win control of the market for NFC services in China. Just a week after it was confirmed that China Mobile has commercially launched its RF SIM-based service, China Unicom has announced it is moving from the trial stage to a commercial launch of its own, NFC standard, service.

The pilot in Shanghai is not a trial any more, says China Unicom, it is “a real service offering to customers.”

China Unicom, the country’s second largest mobile operator, launched a mobile transport ticketing service in Shanghai in September 2009 and signed a deal with Chinese bank card association China UnionPay (CUP) in December. The deal was described as “a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement” and is designed to lead to the introduction of a series of co-branded mobile payments services.

Now, says China Unicom, the plan is to:

  • Launch payment services with financial institutions in Q2 2010 (estimated) using the SWP standard
  • Establish a working group to support handset vendors’ development of NFC phones in order to address the shortage of NFC phones (China Unicom has been using Single Wire Protocol compliant NFC handsets from Hedy during the trial phase of the project.)

We have had very good feedback from the market, says China Unicom and “the first slot of hundreds of NFC phones sold out within three hours in the first day.” There has also been very strong support from banks, associations and the central bank for China Unicom’s open business model, the operator adds.

China Unicom has signed up an impressive list of partners for the rollout, including:

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