Russia’s leading mobile operators are considering jointly promoting the Near Field Communication (NFC) standards in Russia. To support the effort, the mobile giants envision establishing an alliance similar to such international NFC-focused industry unions as Oscar in the UK or ISIS in the U.S.
In an interview with the Russian business daily Vedomosti, Alexander Popovsky, the vice president of MTS, a leading Russian mobile operator and retailer, said that his company has been in talks with Vimpelcom and Megafon, the other mobile players in what is known as Russia’s “Big Three,” over setting up a joint venture to push an “integrated platform” on which to develop NFC-based solutions.
The integrated platform is a must, Popovsky believes, especially where NFC is to serve the government sector (such as public transportation fares). To develop a technology solution capable of keeping track of all user transactions, a separate legal entity is required as the one and only partner for the government, he added.
The “Big Three” have been tapping into the technology already in gas stations, metro stations and restaurants – but each on its own, as it thinks fit.
The Russian NFC market, though still young, has been on the move in the past three years. The world’s largest payment systems, including Visa and MasterCard, are providing incentives to their Russian partners to adopt NFC through their proprietary payWave and PayPass platforms. Eleven sizable Russian banks were reported last September to have already issued plastic cards with an NFC module.
What may hinder the new alliance in pursuing its goal, however, is the lack of handsets supporting the technology. Euroset, a leading Russian mobile phone retailer, told Vedomosti that according to its estimates, such handsets account for less than 5% of all phones available in the national market.
The NFC standards enable smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication by touching each other or coming into close proximity. Applications include contactless transactions and data exchange.
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