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Road clear for NFC-equipped phones

Mobile phone owners will soon be able to use their handsets in place of debit and credit cards

Thanks to a new wireless technology, mobile phone owners will soon be able to use their handsets in place of debit and credit cards to make payments.

Known as near field communications (NFC), the technology provides a wireless range of a few inches, just enough to "swipe" the phone at a payment terminal or tap two devices together to exchange information.

The idea of NFC-enabled phones has been around for years, but the prohibitive costs of the wireless chips had been hindering their wider use.

Aside from a few trials, the use of NFC-equipped phones is currently limited to ticket payment on mass transit systems in Japan and Hong Kong.

Bringing NFC on to mobile phones will be an advancement similar to the addition of GPS navigation or a camera, according to Nick Holland, analyst for research firm Yankee Group.

At the world's largest mobile phone trade show, held last week in Barcelona, it was clear that the log-jam facing NFC-equipped phones has loosened, in part because the chips are now cheaper. Millions of such phones will be in consumer hands in Europe and the US before the end of the year.

Copyright Press Association 2011

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