Orange launches Quick Tap NFC mobile payments

Mobile provider Orange has become the first major network in the UK to offer a contactless payment system based on Near Field Communications Technology, partnering with Barclaycard to provide the infrastructure.

The partnership between the two leverages Barclaycard's existing contactless payment know-how, which is based on RFID technology, and sees Orange offering NFC-equipped smartphones for mobile-based payments.

The service, which Orange has branded Quick Tap, uses a Samsung Tocco handset with an in-built NFC radio which, sad to say, is the only handset yet supported on the system. While other handsets include NFC technology - including the Samsung-manufactured Google Nexus S - they're not part of Orange's offering.

As well as limiting its users to a specific handset, Orange is requiring customers to have a Barclaycard, Barclay's debit card, or an Orange credit card before they can sign up to Quick Tap, leaving those who bank with other institutions, and who don't want yet another credit card, out in the cold.

It's not all bad news, however. To tempt its customers into signing up for the programme, which allows payments of up to £15 to be made with a simple wave of the handset, Orange is offering a £10 inducement to be spent in the first 30 days along with 10 per cent cash back on all transactions in the first 90 days.

Interestingly, Orange have decided not to allow payments to be taken out of the balance on pay-as-you-go handsets, nor added to the bill of monthly contract users. Instead, the mobile will play host to a 'virtual wallet,' a separate account holding pre-paid cash that can only be used for NFC transactions.

Many in the industry believe that mobile payments via NFC will be a major growth industry: Google was one of the first to come out in support of the technology in its Nexus S handset, and has been rumoured to be working on an NFC payment infrastructure of its own.

Rival Apple, however, has been more reluctant to embrace NFC and, despite rumours to the contrary, is unlikely to include NFC hardware in its next-generation iPhone 5 handset.