Orange to Introduce NFC Version of Galaxy S II in France
SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS, FRANCE – France’s largest mobile operator, France Telecom-Orange, has announced it will introduce the NFC version of the popular Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone next month.
Orange is believed to be the first mobile operator outside of South Korea to announce concrete plans to introduce the NFC version of Samsung’s flagship smartphone. It’s also one of the first announcements by a mobile operator in Europe to deploy an NFC-enabled Android phone of any kind. Updated: France Telecom group operator Orange UK is also expected to get the NFC version of the Galaxy S II this year for its Quick Tap NFC service. End update.
The Galaxy S II, the follow-up to Samsung’s best-selling Galaxy S, will add to four other NFC phones Orange France has on sale in its shops. Three of the others, from Samsung and LG Electronics, are feature phones. The other is the Wave 578, supporting Samsung’s own bada operating system.
All of the five phones support the single-wire protocol standard and applications on SIM cards.
Orange had wanted to launch the Galaxy S II with NFC earlier, but had to develop software for the phones to support French NFC services, a source said. Orange put the non-NFC version of the phone on sale earlier this year. Samsung announced last July that it had sold 5 million units of the Galaxy S II in fewer than three months after introducing it in Asia and Europe–a faster rate than the Galaxy S.
The addition of the Galaxy S II could help Orange's attempt to reach its tough goal of selling 500,000 NFC phones in France by the end of 2011. To date, it has only distributed 150,000 NFC phones, the telco disclosed.
There are still few places for French consumers to use the NFC phones. Nonetheless, Orange said it plans to issue more expensive NFC-enabled SIM cards to all new subscribers starting next year.
“Our objective, of course, is to seed the market with handsets and SIMs to trigger the development of services,” said Thierry Millet, vice president for mobile payments and contactless services at Orange group, speaking at the NFC World Congress Monday in Sophia Antipolis, France, which is near Nice.
Millet, who assumed the post at Orange two months ago, predicted the telco would have 15 to 20 NFC phone models on sale in its French shops by next year.
Nice is the only city in France where NFC services are available, mainly for transit ticketing, payment and tag-reading. Orange, along with other major French mobile operators and service providers, launched NFC in Nice in May of 2010 as a demonstration project for the technology.
A second French city, Strasbourg, site of a couple of earlier NFC trials, plans to launch NFC next month in a project similar to the one in Nice.
A number of other cities are interested, including Marseille, Bordeaux and Caen. The cities can get funding to cover noncommercial infrastructure and software development costs from the French government, which is putting up €20 million (US$27.2 million) to encourage NFC rollouts.
Among the few operators that have launched NFC-enabled Android phones in Europe is Turkcell, which launched a lower-cost Android phone in Turkey made by Chinese equipment maker Huawei in the summer.