Gemalto will be providing trusted services for Vodafone's customers around the world, including NFC payments, in a multi-year contract between the two companies.
The deal will see Gemalto providing the end-to-end infrastructure necessary to secure mobile applications, including pay-by-bonk and ticketing, utilising a secure element stored on the Vodafone-owned SIM chip and under control of the network operator as opposed to the handset manufacturer or other third party who might be making eyes at customer wallets.
Gemalto will be providing the servers and client software, the latter being embedded in Vodafone SIMs. The combination creates and manages a secure space on the SIM into which Vodafone can put applications beyond the reach of handset malware, while enabling them to use the handset's Near Field Communications (NFC) technology to authorise payments and other bonk-based interactions.
More importantly it will enable Vodafone to rent out that space to loyalty schemes, banks, advertisers, and anyone else who wants somewhere safe to stash stuff in punters' pockets, a facility which other companies are already providing, or trying to provide.
Google, for example, would love to store customer credit cards and loyalty schemes in Google Wallet, providing pay-by-bonk on some Android handsets. Apple's Passbook will store loyalty and coupons, but no bonking just yet, so the operators still have a lead and aspirations to turn the SIM from something which hosts a phone number into a portable wallet which can slip from handset to handset just as easily as a physical one switches between pockets.
The Gemalto win isn't terribly surprising; Gemalto was formed of two of the largest players in the SIM business (Gemplus and Axalto) and with Vodafone being the second largest mobile operator in the world (after China Mobile), it is taking no risks by signing. But the deal is progress towards enabling NFC and taking network operators into a world where they're not just selling minutes anymore. ®