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Vodafone wants to bonk you… wait, wants you to bonk

Look at our operator-favouring Single Wire Protocol

NFC payment tech for phones, aka bonking, is coming to an Android Vodamobe near you.

Not put off by the failure of the O2 wallet and Orange CityZi payment systems, Voda has teamed up with payments processing tech company Carta Worldwide to add bonking to its mobile wallet.

In the internal war of NFC technologies the new service uses the operator-favouring Single Wire Protocol (SWP), which puts the secure element in the SIM card, while the bank-favouring Host Card Emulation (HCE) puts the secure element in the phone.

This is a reversal of fortune for SWP, which at one point seemed to be losing out. Customers will, however, need a new SIM card to use the service.

SWP was designed to put the operators in the payment chain. Vodafone wasn't prepared to tell El Reg if it has a revenue share in this arrangement. One of the downsides of using SWP is that it’s a lot slower than HCE and so falls outside the 300 millisecond per transaction specification necessary for transport applications.

Transport services want to be able to get three cards a second through the system.

The system supplements the Vodafone wallet by using the customers current credit cards as opposed to the Vodafone 2013 SmartPass which is a separate NFC account that has to be topped up.

The payment mechanism uses the new tokenisation technology recently announced by Visa and a platform from Carta Worldwide, and the whole shebang kicks off in Vodafone’s European networks from the second quarter of 2015 onwards.

To be able to bonk with their phone customers will need to download the Android app, input their bank cards to the Vodafone Wallet app, which creates a token on the SIM using Verified by Visa authentication.

Other companies have experimented with allowing customers to photograph their cards to enter the number but the Vodafone implementation doesn’t do this.

Vodafone Wallet is currently available in Germany, Spain, the UK, Italy and The Netherlands. Customers can already add loyalty cards into the Vodafone Wallet. Vodafone declined to give us figures for the number of subscribers using Wallet or Smartpass, or to forecast the level of usage for the new scheme.

Analysis: The battle between SWP and HCE has massively slowed down implementation of systems. Until this announcement it looked like HCE had won.

Vodafone throwing its considerable weight behind SWP could be the worst possible thing to happen to contactless payments.

And while the telcos and banks squabble, they all seem to have failed to have noticed that the number of people who use contactless tech in mobile phones – Apple Pay aside – is vanishingly small. ®

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