NFC for the masses (the British masses at least) just got a step closer as the big four UK networks all agreed to play nicely and form a joint venture to enable "the rapid development and delivery of new mobile marketing and payment services".

Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile and Orange (under their Everything Everywhere banner) are all in and, as such, we should expect to see NFC marketing and payment options becoming more common, with mobile wallets becoming the norm and promotional tools (such as advertising, coupons and the like) being aimed at mobile users more frequently.

Tom Alexander, CEO of Everything Everywhere, said: "This groundbreaking new business will unlock the true potential of commerce in the wire-free world.

"The benefits will be felt across the whole industry, allowing people to manage their money and make payments using their handsets, helping advertisers reach their customers on the move, and helping banks provide their clients with an easy and convenient way of making payments."

Guy Laurence, chief executive officer of Vodafone UK, added: "Currently people take their mobile, wallet and keys when they leave home. In the near future, people will now start leaving their wallet at home, and in the mid term their keys may also be integrated into their mobile as NFC allows the mobile to act as a digital access card. The joint venture is the next phase in realising that ambition."

This m-commerce move is being touted as "the first of its kind in the UK" and is on course for a 2011 launch.

See also - What is NFC?

And - What is Google Wallet?