Orange Gears Up for NFC in Europe–Plans to Hire Groupwide TSM

France Telecom-Orange Group is seeking to hire a trusted service manager for its mobile group, focusing first on Orange branch operators in Poland, Spain and Romania, NFC Times has learned.

Orange sees the three countries as “first potential” markets for NFC rollouts, according to a document obtained by NFC Times. That is in addition to France and the United Kingdom, Orange's largest markets, where the telco has already launched small NFC rollouts, and where it has hired other trusted service managers, or TSMs. Orange wants the new groupwide-TSM platform ready by the first quarter of 2012.

France Telecom is one of Europe’s largest mobile operator groups, with a presence in 13 countries there. Overall, the group operates in more than 30 countries, including several African and Middle Eastern countries and has a total of more than 200 million mobile subscribers. The TSM contract would cover the African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries, as well, though there are apparently no plans to launch NFC outside of Europe in the near future.

In some or all of the three markets where Orange says it needs the TSM services, the telco faces competition from rivals planning their own NFC rollouts. In Poland, telcos and banks are gearing up for NFC launches expected to start this year, including Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile. In Spain, No. 1 carrier Telefónica has been holding large NFC pilots and appears to have aggressive plans for NFC.

But France Telecom-Orange is not the only operator currently in the market for a TSM. NFC Times has learned that Rogers Wireless, Canada’s largest mobile carrier, is also planning to hire a TSM and introduce a mobile wallet. It is working with one or more Canadian banks, possibly including TD Bank, on the launch of NFC-based mobile payment, sources said. Such telco groups as Germany-based Deutsche Telekom have issued their own requests for tenders for TSMs.

Canadian banks, including TD Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, have also signed on to work with Visa on Visa’s planned digital-wallet, which the card network said would launch by this fall.

A spokesperson for Rogers was not available for comment. Orange earlier told NFC Times it was “investigating” the benefits of hiring a TSM for the group.

Orange issued a request for proposal for the TSM Tuesday, seeking a vendor to manage applications on Orange NFC phones. The vendor would work with other TSMs from service providers, such as banks, along with SIM suppliers and other vendors, according to the document obtained by NFC Times.

Orange refers to the TSM role as the “NSM," or NFC service manager. It requires the vendor to build an interoperable platform with those of other TSMs working in the same markets, along with suppliers of SIM cards. Orange will insist that such applications as payment be stored on SIM cards it issues for NFC phones. The telco sees a business case for charging fees from service providers to manage their applications on its SIMs.

In France, Orange hired France-based Gemalto as its TSM to handle the telco’s participation in the NFC demonstration project that launched last year in the city of Nice along with similar multioperator projects in other French cites. The contract with Gemalto is said to run until the end of next year.

In the United Kingdom, where Orange UK is part of the Everything Everywhere joint venture with T-Mobile UK, Orange has hired Orange Business Services to serve as its TSM. Orange Business Services is a separate unit of France Telecom, which offers business-to-business communication services. Orange UK and Barclaycard launched their Quick Tap NFC payment service in May.

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