Sony, NXP Pursue Universal Cellphone Contactless Payment Method

Is a standard cellphone format for contactless payment in the offing? Unlikely, but some major players are going to make a lot of noise trying. Sony and NXP Semiconductors (formerly Philips Semiconductors) on Monday announced that they will work together to--by mid-year 2007--"plan, develop, produce and market a secure chip that will include both Mifare and Felica operating systems and applications, as well as other contactless card operating systems and applications."

That's quite an undertaking. The pair officially got the backing of the GSM Association, a major telco organization representing 14 mobile network operators: Bouygues Telecom, China Mobile, Cingular Wireless, KPN, Mobilkom Austria, Orange, SFR, SK Telecom, Telefonica Móviles España, Telenor, TeliaSonera, TIM, Vodafone and 3. The Sony/NXP objective, according to a joint statement the companies issued, is to combine what they will create with an NFC chip to create a universal contactless IC platform for cellphones.

To be fair, these kinds of relationships are essential for truly interoperable mobile payments systems to be deployed. But the hurdles on doing something like globally are huge. Then again, so are the incentives.