The Mobile Lowdown 03-29-11: RIM; Best Buy WiMax; NFC

Our look at some of the big stories today in mobile: reports of RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) looking at investing in India; Best Buy starts up its WiMax service with Clearwire; (NSDQ: CLWR) and another advance in MasterCard’s NFC initiative.

RIM: A report in the WSJ says that handset maker RIM is considering opening a manufacturing plant and a logistics operation in India as it looks to grow its business in that market.

Hard to say what exactly is behind this story: on the one hand India is an obvious market for RIM to target as it matures as a handset maker, develops cheaper devices and looks for new markets to grow in. Tech-friendly India has nearly 800 million mobile users today, and the number of those adopting smartphones is booming.

On the other hand, it could be part of some other kind of complicated state negotiation. Recently RIM has been involved in a impasse with the Indian government over the ability to monitor its corporate email service. The state wants access to screen for terrorism and other issues of national security; RIM claims it’s impossible to monitor it. It has already given the state access to monitoring its BlackBerry messaging service.

Best Buy: The huge retailer is ramping up its Best Buy Connect mobile broadband service. Yesterday it launched 4G connectivity, with Clearwire providing wholesale access to its WiMax network for the service. This is part of Clearwire’s strategy to diversify its revenue streams by including more wholesale relationships. It already provides wholesale access to shareholders Sprint (NYSE: S), Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner.

The WiMax-based service will cost $45 per month on a month-to-month or two-year contract. On the two-year contract, customers do not have to pay the $35 activation fee and get rebates totalling $150 for “select hardware devices.”

No word on how Best Buy Connect might get exported to the UK, where the retailer is in a new JV with Carphone Warehouse.

MasterCard: Amid lots of reports that Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is teaming up with MasterCard (and others) for an NFC service — nothing confirmed as yet by any company, though — comes a bona fide announcement of an actual step by the payment giant, albeit one that might not make as many waves as any rumor concerning the big G.

Gemalto, which makes SIM cards and other mobile security solutions, says that it now has the “world’s first UICC-embedded software application compliant with Mobile MasterCard PayPass M/Chip 4,” MasterCard’s NFC payment technology.

Gemalto says that it is already working with a mobile operator and financial institution implementing this in the UK. (No word on the name of the operator although we already know that France Telecom’s Orange, for one, is working on an NFC solution for the UK market.)