Telecom Italia and Visa Europe plan to support Near Field Communication payments for more than 31 million Telecom Italia Mobile subscribers next year.

The companies announced a strategic agreement last week, building on what Telecom Italia says was a series of successful tests of consumers in Milan using NFC-enabled smartphones to make payments at contactless terminals.

The partners say they will store a TIM-branded Visa card, issued through Intesa Sanpaolo, on the NFC SIM card of each user's phone.

As the partnership progresses, Telecom Italia says it will make its mobile wallet platform available to other financial institutions, retailers, transportation and public utility companies in hopes of creating an open wallet.

"Telecom Italia has developed a specific technologic platform to ensure the security of mobile payment services that banks will enable to cardholders," Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano states in a press release.

The partnership with Visa Europe allows Telecom Italia to more quickly deploy payment services through mobile phones, Patuano says. The development of NFC payments in Italy represents "a step that will change people's habits and will make everyday life easier for our customers," he adds.

The partnership allows Telecom Italia to support Visa Europe's vision of reducing consumer use of cash at the point of sale, the company says.

Consumers using the TIM mobile wallet can make contactless payments of less than 25 euros (U.S. $34), but will type in a PIN on the phone for purchases above that amount.

Davide Steffani, general manager Italy for Visa Europe, calls the partnership a turning point for innovation in the country.

"Italy is ripe for this type of service, it is the leading market for prepaid products in Europe and Italians have always been quick to adopt the latest trends in mobile technology," Steffani states in the release.

U.S. consumers also gained an option for a telco-based NFC mobile wallet last week when the Isis Mobile Wallet launched nationwide after nearly two years of preparation and testing. 

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