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NTT Docomo partners with Korea’s KT to switch to NFC at end of 2012

Mobile network operator NTT Docomo, the driving force behind Japan’s Osaifu-Keitai mobile wallet service, has confirmed that it will make the move to NFC standard technology from “around the end of 2012″, in partnership with Korea’s KT.

KT and NTT Docomo

DOCOMO AND KT: Bringing NFC to Japan and Korea from the end of 2012

Japan’s NTT Docomo has signed an agreement with Korea’s KT that will see the two mobile network operators introducing commercial NFC services from “around the end of 2012″.

The services will be interoperable, allowing each operator’s subscribers to use a range of NFC mobile payments, mass transit ticketing and promotional couponing services offered in each country.

“Customers travelling between South Korea and Japan will access the services using compatible Android handsets embedded with contactless IC chips,” the partners say.

To that end, KT and Docomo are currently developing common specifications that will be incorporated into devices, networks and billing platforms via a joint Business & Technology Cooperation Committee. Docomo also plans to submit an outline of the common specifications to global industry associations and standardization bodies, such as the GSM Association.

As well as KT, Docomo has also formed strategic tie-ups with Visa, NFC chip and handset manufacturer Samsung and SIM card vendor Gemalto. Docomo has also agreed to collaborate with both card issuer Sumitomo Mitsui Card Co and BitWallet, provider of the widely used Edy prepaid card.

“To prepare for the services, Docomo and KT will accelerate development of their existing infrastructures as well as solicit the participation of NFC-based service providers in various industries,” say the two companies.

In October, KT announced it was to launch a commercial NFC service in Korea from the end of that month using Samsung’s SHW-A170K Android NFC phone and predicted that, by 2015, 47% of all its phones would include NFC functionality.

In November, Docomo added tag reading capabilities to sixteen of its new phones and a report in Japanese business newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun suggested the operator would switch to NFC standard technology in 2013.

In July, rival Japanese operators KDDI and Softbank Mobile signed a deal with Korean mobile network operator SK Telecom that will see the three companies working together to switch from existing non-NFC standard mobile contactless services to an NFC standard approach. KDDI is conducting extensive NFC tests with partners including  ToyotaAll Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan Airlines (JAL), Toho Cinemas and card issuers Orient CorporationCredit Saison, and Aiwai Card Services. Softbank is testing NFC with Credit Saison and Orient Corporation.

Docomo will be demonstrating its planned international NFC service on its stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week.

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