O2 has launched a six-month trial into the viability of integrating Near Field Communications (NFC) technology into mobile phones.
The O2 Wallet system is similar to Barclaycard's OnePulse which combines a traditional credit card with a cashless payment system and an Oyster card.
"Research shows that people are more likely to return home if they leave their phone behind than their wallet or keys. So why not have your wallet on your phone?" said Cath Keers, customer director at O2 UK.
"We believe that NFC technology is going to fundamentally change the way people use their mobile phones."
The trial includes 500 participants invited from the O2 customer base in London and will run for six months until the end of May 2008.
Each participant will be given a Nokia 6131 NFC handset installed with the O2 Wallet, and will receive a combination of £50 Oyster credit and £60 of prepaid airtime or credit to their monthly bills.
A subset of 225 participants will also receive £200 credit from Barclaycard to be used for purchases under £10 at any participating retailer with a contactless reader installed.
Sandra Alzetta, head of innovation and acceptance at Visa Europe, described the initiative as the next step in the development and commercialisation of mobile payments around the world.
"It is an obvious next step following the introduction of Visa payWave in London, and will allow us to apply the experiences gained through other mobile trials around the world," she said.
Each aspect of the O2 trial will remain separate, meaning that purchases will not be billed to the mobile phone account and users will not be able to top up their Oyster card directly from the embedded Barclaycard account.
Similarly, at the time this service becomes commercially available, users will have to deal with each account separately in the event of changes or if the phone is lost or stolen.
"This trial is going to provide insights which will prove crucial to getting the customer experience right as we bring NFC on mobile to market," said Keers.
"But the trial is just the start. For this to work we will need mobile operators, banks and retailers working together to fulfil a shared vision. If we get this right we can place the UK at the forefront of technology innovation."
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