Japan, one of the most advanced mobile nations in the world, doesn’t want to be a “cell phone Galapagos” anymore, at least when it comes to payments over NFC. Paying with cell phones is already ubiquitous in Japan, but now the country’s top three telcos (NTT Docomo, KDDI au, and SoftBank Mobile) are trying to switch from the Nippon-only Osaifu Keitai system to the Type A and Type B NFC standards used globally.
The problem for the carriers is that Osaifu Keitai (“Portable Wallet”), which is based on Sony’s FeliCa RFID smart card technology, isn’t compatible to the Type A and B NFC standards. Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank have set up the so-called Japan Mobile NFC Consortium to coordinate the domestic adoption of those standards with “service suppliers and handset manufacturers”.
The background here is that with this move, the carriers are not only streamlining domestic mobile payment services but making it easier for Japanese handset manufacturers like Sharp or Panasonic to sell their devices abroad. In fact, Japanese business daily The Nikkei is reporting that handsets incorporating Type A and B NFC standards from Japanese makers will be released at the end of next year.
With over 120 million cell phones in use, Japan is currently the 7th biggest mobile market in the world.