Several key companies today announced a near-field-communications (NFC) trial that will let participating customers make contactless payments and access mobile content from their mobile phones at Philips Arena in Atlanta.

Using a Nokia 3220 mobile phone with Philips’ NFC semiconductor chips and ViVOtech software, season-ticket holders for the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks that have Chase-issued Visa cards and Cingular Wireless accounts can make concession purchases by holding their phones near one of 150 RFID readers at the point of sale.

Tom Zalewski, Nokia Americas’ head of payment and ticketing, said the NFC technology represents an “enhancement” of mobile RFID applications. With NFC, a mobile phone can act as a credit card, possibly holding multiple cards’ information to act as a virtual wallet.

“It depends on the business model and the services offered by a bank or someone issuing prepaid cards,” Zalewski said. “The tools are there. It’s just up to the imagination of whoever wants to implement that.”

NFC technology also could be used to let user access content more flexibly, Zalewski said. For instance, a person near a movie billboard could watch a trailer of the movie on their phone, which could be followed with times for the nearest showings and the ability to buy tickets from the phone, he said.

Including these NFC capabilities will have “minimal” impact on the battery life of the phone, Zalewski said.

Erik Michielsen, director at market analyst firm ABI Research, said he expects NFC chips to be commonplace in mobile phones within five years.

"By 2010, we expect that over 50% of all mobile handsets will incorporate Near Field Communication chips to enable short-range, easy and secure transactions," said in a prepared statement. "As a result, consumers will be able to download content by simply holding their phone close to a poster or advertising billboard. Users can purchase merchandise, food, tickets, and have these transactions charged to a credit card using account information stored in the mobile phone.”