NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank Mobile have set up the Japan Mobile NFC Consortium with the aim of working together to coordinate the switch from Japan's existing Osaifu-Keitai non-NFC standard mobile payments system to NFC.
All three operators already offer customers the option of conducting mobile payments, using the long-established but non-NFC standard Osaifu-Keitai mobile wallet technology. This uses embedded chips produced by Sony Felica and is commercialised through Felica Networks, a joint venture between Sony and NTT Docomo.
"Overseas, however, mobile operators and service providers are increasingly adopting Type A and Type B standards to develop growing markets for NFC services," say the carriers. "In view of this worldwide trend, the consortium intends to work with mobile industry groups in Japan, including service suppliers and handset manufacturers, to incorporate compatibility with the Type A and B standards in the Japanese mobile ecosystem."
By ensuring compatibility with international NFC standards, the consortium says, it aims to:
- Free mobile users in Japan, both residents and international travelers, from having to concern themselves about different NFC service standards.
- Create an environment in Japan where service providers can offer efficient, low-cost NFC services based on common standards and rules adopted by the three mobile operators.
All three mobile network operators have already announced plans to move from Osaifu-Keitai to NFC, beginning in 2012, but this is the first time they have agreed to work together to coordinate the switch.
All three are also working with mobile network operators in Korea, where a different non-NFC standard mobile payments technology has been available for a number of years but the move to NFC is taking place more rapidly. KDDI and Softbank signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea's SK Telecom in July 2010, with the aim of allowing the three carriers to work together to switch to NFC. NTT Docomo, meanwhile, signed an agreement with Korea's KT in February 2011, with the similar goal of enabling the two mobile network operators to work together on the move to NFC.