The selection of the Felica integrated-circuit card by Vodafone, the third biggest mobile operator in Japan, will reinforce the Sony product as the sector standard as it is already used by major airlines, stores and banks.

Vodafone said it aimed to introduce handsets embedded with the Felica chip in October and initially ship more than one million of them.

The Felica card can be read from 10cm away, which Vodafone said would let it be used for services such as transport and payment.

A Vodafone statement on Thursday said the combination of the mobile phone and card would make possible a new range of features not available on a plastic Felica card by itself, such as displays of bank account balances.

NTT DoCoMo's new service allows
users to buy tickets using mobiles

Felica Networks is a joint venture with Sony, the East Japan Railway Company and NTT DoCoMo - Japan's biggest mobile service provider and a key competitor of Vodafone.

Felica is the main technology in the Suica card, which allows Japan Railway commuters to pay their fare and buy at outside shops and restaurants without any physical contact. More than 10 million Suica cards have been issued.

Dozens of other Japanese companies have also chosen Felica to provide automatic transactions. They include the nation's biggest carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, convenience store chains AM/PM and Circle K, UFJ Bank as well as the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and even McDonald's.