Visa and Nokia have signed a deal to embed Visa functionality in the NFC-touting Nokia 6212 Classic, enabling US owners to upload their Visa accounts onto the handset as well as transferring money between handsets over the wireless network.
Visa and Nokia have worked together before, on NFC deployments and trials, but the 6212 Classic is a mainstream handset which happens to have NFC technology built in. This project with Visa will start with 6000 users, as reported by RFID Journal, but is the first phase of a roll-out rather than a trial.
It's also significant as it's the first time punters have been given the ability to transfer funds directly themselves, or at least their Visa accounts, making it a significant step towards mobile-phone-as-currency - not to mention putting Nokia firmly in control of the application distribution and security.
NFC handsets such as the 6212 contain an electronic wallet, into which can be loaded applications such as Visa's payWave. One of the sticking points in NFC has been under whose control that wallet should be - who holds the cryptographic keys that determine which applications are appropriate. The London NFC trial was notable in that O2 was permitted control over a few virtual wallets, through the SIM, but the vast majority fell under Nokia's control.
This deal cements that position, with network operators not even warranting a mention this time around - Nokia wants to deal directly with punters, and Visa is there to provide the trusted brand while the network operator is reduced to the status of an ISP.
Nokia has given the network operators plenty of opportunity to take control of the NFC wallet, but if they won't then the manufacturer is more than willing to take responsibility for offering the service direct to punters. In fact, it fits rather well with the direction Nokia would like to be going. ®