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O2, Everything Everywhere (the owner of T-Mobile and Orange) and Vodafone have been given permission to develop 'Project Oscar' together.

The aim of Project Oscar is to develop a smartphone-based service that would be an alternative to credit cards, cash and loyalty cards. Customers would be able to store their credit and debit card details on their smartphones, and pay for goods and services by tapping them on special NFC (Near Field Communication) readers.

Project Oscar aims to be open to everyone - no matter who your mobile phone provider or bank is.

The mobile wallet will make it easier for retailers to offer incentives, advertisements and discounts that are relevant to a user's interests and spending habits. There will be no need to issue paper coupons or store cards that could clog up someone's wallet.

In a statement, the mobile operators responsible for Project Oscar said: "It will give consumers a simple and secure shopping experience, allowing them to purchase goods and services using their handsets in physical locations such as shops, using contactless technology, as well as online."

The mobile phone operator Three is not yet involved, but a spokesperson for them said: "We will continue to monitor developments closely and look forward to the invitation to become a customer of the joint venture on the same terms as all participating UK mobile operators."

O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere have not yet announced a date for launching the product.

The research director for the analysts Juniper Research, Windsor Holden, told the BBC: "What is absolutely critical is educating the public that phones can be used in this way, and the winner will be the businesses who succeed in doing this and convincing both shoppers and vendors that it is easy to use."

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