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Orange, Gemalto announce NFC-ready SIM card deployment drive

France's largest mobile phone operator, Orange, has announced it will begin deploying latest-generation NFC-ready SIM cards to its customers in what is thought to be Europe's first large-scale roll out of mobile contactless services.

In partnership with the international digital security firm Gemalto, Orange is endeavouring to equip its 27 million French customers with an UpTeq NFC high-end SIM reputed to offer the same security levels as chip-based payment or smart cards.

"Orange is leading the way in NFC roll out in France and in Europe. The UpTeq NFC solution meets Orange's qualifications at both national and group levels and our teams are on hand to support and accompany the mobile operator in its NFC strategy," said Philippe Vallée, Executive Vice President of Telecommunications at Gemalto.

Once utilising the SIM, customers will be able to download and activate a range of services, including a 'wallet' of NFC-based applications for payments, transportation, ticketing, and reward schemes.

As part of the plan, Orange will be offering providers of services – banks, transport operators, and retailers – scalable solution packages to help them bring the new payment method to end users.

The announcement comes as interest in – and demand for – contactless technology is increasing. Aviation authorities in France recently experimented with NFC-based passenger check-in.

Apple's 'iPhone 5', is also rumoured to be equipped with an NFC chip and mobile payment system.