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Airtel Africa to launch NFC services in fifteen African countries

Mobile network operator Airtel Africa is to launch NFC services in Kenya, Tanzania, Gabon and a further nine African countries in early 2011, its NFC technology partner Oberthur Technologies has announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today.

Airtel Africa is part of the Bharti Airtel group which also operates in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Ultimately, the NFC payments service will be deployed across all fifteen of Airtel’s African affiliates, according to today’s announcement.

The NFC payments technology to be used by Airtel Africa has been specifically tailored by Oberthur Technologies’ NFC R&D team to meet local needs. Oberthur developed both the NFC SIM and mCommerce security solutions for the service and has developed bespoke NFC applets, integrated and customised POS applications and engineered unique NFC enablers for specific user handsets. The solution is nominated in the ‘Best Mobile Technology for Emerging Markets’ category for the 2011 GSMA awards.

“As a pioneer of innovation in Africa, the new Airtel Africa NFC service enhances our users’ experience,” says George Held, director of products & innovation at Airtel Africa. “Any non-technical or non-experienced user can use the new service.”

“This is a landmark in Africa and the first steps of an evolution of the payment ecosystem for mobile users, banked and unbanked, with no compromise on security,” adds Oberthur’s Thierry Siminger. “True innovation can be realised in these markets and we look forward to the commercial NFC launch across 12 countries at the beginning of 2011.”

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