20050226

mobile payment : hibernation is over for the Near Field Communications forum

Showtime for FeliCa Networks : the DoCoMo-Sony JV will provide chips for all Japanese MNOs. KDDI signed the agreement last September and Vodafone KK just joined suit right after one more lousy month (their market share is not likely to improve dramatically until they replace that problematic 2G of theirs with a reliable and comprehensive 3G service). Just to remain one step ahead, DoCoMo announced at the same moment a deal with East Japan Railways around this mobile payment enabler developped by Sony Corp but with a specific branding ("mobile suica").
When 3 fierce competitors on a major W-CDMA vs cdma2000 market decide to use the same solution for such a key entry point, one can expect a big boost for mobile commerce. We're talking about Vodafone, DoCoMo (who as usual insists on the packaging of the solution with i-mode), and KDDI (a relatively small player but the herald of the CDMA Development Group in a huge market).
This surely is bad news for such competitors as Moneta (time will tell whether they can make it abroad as a solution as well as as a business model), but this goes far beyond the mobile players' arena : the likes of DoCoMo and Vodafone don't want Procter & Gamble / Procter & Gilette dictating them the way mobile payment will work (remember RFID ?), and Sony are just pleased to open a real new biz opportunity to brighten their IR slides. Yet in Japan Sony is much more than the Sony you know and the conglomerate just reorganized their financial businesses' organisation around Sony Life Insurance Co., Ltd., Sony Assurance Inc. and... Sony Bank Inc. Because Sony is also a bank and because SK Telecom is almost a bank, reproducing the successes of mobile payment overseas will certainly not be a walk in the park (the French MNOs know very well you cannot make mobile payment happen without involving big banks).
To know where the wind is blowing, watch out for potential changes of memberships in the various m-payment fora : will Sony or FeliCa join the Mobile Payment Forum (the only cross-industry m-payment forum) ? will DoCoMo join simpay (the operators' forum where Vodafone has a seat) ? or will Vodafone simply let his KK collect some Ks on its own in Japan ? will all these players keep staying away from the Mobile electronic Transactions forum ?
Even better lads : along with many other organizations, that MeT forum and the Mobey Forum (the one meant for and by the big banking institutions) just announced they joined the NFC Forum as non profit members. Yeah, the very forum I was mocking at the other day because of the abandon of its website released a bombshell on february the 24th. Sony happens to be a founding sponsor member of this forum, along with Nokia and Philips (LG and RF Micro Devices being non sponsor members and Korea's ETRI a non profit member). So in their first press release in ages, the NFC Forum announced a potentially disruptive conference at CTIA Wireless 2005 next month and an impressive cast of new members : Microsoft, Visa International, MasterCard International, Samsung, Motorola, NEC, Texas Instruments and Panasonic / Matsushita Electric Industrial Co become both new sponsor members and members of the board (just to make sure you know both where and how hard the wind is blowing), and Gemplus, Logitech, Smart System Technologies Inc, Skidata AG, Cetecom Spain, Giesecke & Devrient, JCB Co Ltd, 3ALogics Inc join as non sponsor members.
Well. Nice crowd, but still no MNO to be seen.
So you thought Vodafone & DoCoMo were wise enough to chose the same solution in Japan ? They're just about to realize that while their US counterparts (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Cingular, Sprint-Nextel) demonstrate the advantages of wireless retailing in New Orleans, LA, the whole industry will signify their independance in the same Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.






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