AMSTERDAM/HELSINKI Nokia NOK1V.HE, the world's biggest handset maker, and mobile telecoms carriers have agreed on a global initiative to turn cell phones into wallets, a wireless telecoms interest group said on Wednesday.
Consumers will be able to use a phone as a wallet or as an access card simply by waving it over a wireless reader -- and in some cases punching a PIN number into the phone -- similar to how travelers in Tokyo and London access public transport.
"The phone becomes a wallet, after that you can pay with it just like you pay with your bank cards," Kai Oistamo, head of Nokia's main cell phones unit, told Reuters.
Large European and Asian carriers KPN (KPN.AS), Maxis Communications Bhd (MXSC.KL), Mobilkom Austria, O2 (TEF.MC), Orange FTE.PA, SFR, SingTel, SKT, and Wind joined 14 cell phone operators which initiated the project several months ago.
Nokia, alongside two other major cell phone makers Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) and LG Electronics (066570.KS), will embed a wireless chip into its phones.
The world's biggest payment card company, MasterCard, is also involved in the initiative, which is cheaper and much faster than other wireless payment experiments, like those using SMS text messages.
Trials with the new standard are set to start in October.
"After several fragmented initiatives, the mobile phone industry is now uniting around a single approach to enabling the mobile phone to be used, instead of cash or plastic credit card, at point of sale," said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association, the global trade association for cell phone operators.
China Mobile (0941.HK), Vodafone (VOD.L), Cingular -- owned by AT&T Inc (T.N) and BellSouth Corp BLS.N -- and Telefonica (TEF.MC) already support the common wireless chip format on the cell phones they distribute for their networks.
Together with chip makers NXP NXP.UL and Sony (6758.T), which pioneered the contactless chip called Near Field Communication (NFC), companies plan a global standard for electronic wallets in cell phones.
Cell phones are already widely used as electronic wallets in Japan, where more than 12.6 million consumers already have their credit cards embedded in a chip in cell phones.
Mifare -- developed by NXP, which was formerly known as Philips (PHG.AS) Semiconductors -- and Felica developed by Sony are two of the most widely used formats used for access cards for buildings and public transport as well as cell phones which double as electronic wallets.
"By combining this secure chip with an NFC chip, a universal contactless IC (integrated circuit) platform can be created for mobile phones," Mifare and Felica said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki in Helsinki)