Orange will begin introducing NFC services "in the majority of countries in which it has a presence" in 2011, the mobile network operator has told mobile phone manufacturers at a meeting in Paris on 15 December.
The company is Europe's third largest mobile network operator and has 144.5 million mobile customers worldwide. In Europe, it operates in France, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova and Luxembourg.
Orange will begin issuing NFC SIMs from the second quarter of 2011 to subscribers "in most of the Group's European operations" and is working with handset manufacturers to ensure that more than half the new smartphone models it buys have built-in NFC functionality.
"Orange is the first European operator to make such a clear commitment to the development of mobile contactless services," says the operator. "By introducing the necessary technology on such a wide scale, Orange will enable a maximum number of its customers to benefit quickly and easily as new services are deployed in each country.
"The smartphone revolution has changed the way people organize their daily lives. People today are constantly connected and constantly on the move. We are seizing the opportunity this creates to make everyday transactions simple," says Stephane Richard, CEO of France Telecom-Orange. "Our commitment to contactless services will benefit customers, giving them a seamless, convenient and secure way to validate transport or make payments. To make it a reality for our customers, Orange is working with other operators, banks, retailers, transport and service providers to create an eco-system which will stimulate the development of services adapted to everyone's needs."
From January, Orange France will be distributing the Samsung Player One Cityzi NFC phone — currently only available in Nice — nationally through its entire network of stores. Other models of NFC phone are expected to reach the shelves during the Spring of 2011, Orange says, and the company aims to sell a total of 500,000 near field communication-equipped mobile phones in France during 2011.
In the UK, Orange has been working with Barclaycard since March 2009 on the development of commercial NFC services and originally planned to launch its first service by the end of 2010.