NTT DoCoMo offering password replacement on some services

Japan's largest mobile service provider says it has taken a board seat with authentication consortium FIDO Alliance

NTT DOCOMO said Tuesday it would replace passwords with biometric credentials on a number of its online services starting tomorrow as a major step toward adoption of strong authentication.

Japan's largest mobile service provider, with more than 60 million customers, said that on May 27 services such as d book, d game, d music, d delivery, and Pet Insurance will provide users access and payment capabilities via iris recognition or fingerprint authentication without need for a password.

NTT DoCoMo said it plans to be the first mobile operator to integrate online services and smartphones that support biometric authentication based on protocols developed by the FIDO Alliance. Last month, the company said it expects to invest a total of $5.3 billion during its fiscal year 2015 to enhance coverage and speed of its LTE network. The company's name is an abbreviation of the phrase "do communications over the mobile network."

The company Tuesday also announced it has taken a board seat at the FIDO Alliance, a consortium of nearly 200 members including major banks and tech giants such as Microsoft and Google.

FIDO, short for Fast Identity Online, was formed in July 2012 to address strong

authentication and reduce the use of passwords through a combination of hardware, software, and services. The Alliance has created protocols for online authentication based on public key cryptography and biometric technologies. FIDO recently announced a certification program to ensure interoperability across products and services that adopt FIDO's 1.0 protocols.

NTT DoCoMo built its FIDO service in conjunction with partners Nok Nok Labs, Qualcomm, ARM, Samsung, Sharp, and Fujitsu. The company said it would filter its expertise learned in the field to bolster the standardization work of the FIDO Alliance.

The company included biometric authentication in four smartphones it began offering this summer, the Galaxy S6 edge SC-04G, Galaxy S6 SC-05G, ARROWS NX F-04G and AQUOS ZETA SH-03G. It began working on FIDO integration last year, the company said.

In an on-going effort toward password alternatives, the company said it would work with outside partners and third-party service providers. NTT DoCoMo becomes the first mobile network operator to deploy FIDO authentication throughout its network.

"After reviewing the different approaches to authentication available today, we settled on the FIDO standards as the right strategy for solving the current and future authentication needs of our customers," Seiji Maruyama, senior vice president and managing director of the product department at NTT DoCoMo, said in a statement. "Since the FIDO technology is open standard anyone will be able to utilize, we look forward to creating the FIDO eco-system together with FIDO Alliance."

(Disclaimer: My company is a member of the FIDO Alliance).