RIM and Telefonica team up in NFC push

Research In Motion (RIM) is teaming up with Spanish mobile operator Telefonica to trial NFC-powered mobile wallet services internally, before rolling it out internationally in 2012, as the beleaguered smartphone manufacturer attempts to gain a foothold in the mobile payments space. Some 350 Telefonica employees will be equipped with NFC-enabled BlackBerrys to test Telefonica’s mobile wallet, with a host of local businesses, including banks and retailers, on board with the trial. RIM is hoping that the move will spark interest further afield and help launch the firm further into the mobile payments market as it attempts to reverse its struggling fortunes amid overwhelming competition from Apple’s iPhone and devices running on Google’s Android OS.

RIM co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, asserts that the firm is “committed to supporting the advancement of NFC”. The firm appears set to make Brazil the next location where it will trial the payments system, with RIM’s Latin America marketing intelligence manager, Adriano Lino, saying that Telefonica will bring its wallet platform to the country at the turn of the year. RIM launched a raft of new smartphones with NFC capabilities in August, in what the firm described as the “biggest launch in the history of BlackBerry”.

RIM is the latest firm to attempt to drive NFC technology to mainstream acceptance, as buzz continues to generate around the mobile payments space. Google’s Google Wallet platform is another frontrunner in the emerging market, but Atlantic Equities analyst, James Cordwell, tells Reuters that it could take a firm such as Apple to bake the technology into its next iPhone to really spark adoption. “It probably needs that catalyst to get consumer interest in the technology,” he says.

NFC is forecast by many to be the standard in mobile payment platforms in the coming months. A report from Juniper Research earlier this year forecasts that at least one in five smartphones worldwide will be NFC-enabled by 2014 as more manufacturers opt to accommodate the technology. However, firms such as Square and PayPal are gaining traction in the market without utilising NFC, illustrating other options for success in the rapidly expanding space. Overall, Juniper estimates that the global mobile payments market will be worth USD670bn by 2015.

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