SKT enable NFC in legacy handsets
First SIM card with embedded NFC could accelerate uptake of mobile payments, especially in China
Published: 19 September, 2011
SK Telecom says it has created the world's first SIM card which would enable the NFC mobile payments technology to be retrofitted into existing handsets. This could accelerate the uptake of the system, increasingly seen as the standard for buying goods or exchanging data, by swiping the handset.
The Korean cellco says it has created a SIM card with NFC embedded in it, which could be swapped into any SIM-enabled phone. The company plans to launch the product in October, initially for enterprise customers in Korea, but it is looking well beyond its own subscriber base and will offer the technology to operators worldwide. In particular, it will roll it out in China later this year to speed up the adoption of mobile payments and encourage merchants to invest in the necessary infrastructure, such as swipe readers.
NFC is starting to be included on the motherboards of some handsets, though this process has been slower than many had hoped, though the technology is now supported by key platforms like Android. Nokia, which was the earliest vendor to put significant weight behind NFC, has started enabling the function in some smartphones, though its main focus on high end devices is on exchanging data by tapping handsets together. Its payments activities are more focused on featurephones for emerging economies, targeting the 'unbanked'.
As well as payments, ticketing and data swaps, NFC can also be used to download information from passive tags, often as a URL in the mobile browser. It operates on a 13.56MHz carrier over ranges of about 10 centimeters. SKT's NFC-on-USIM card comes embedded with a 13.56MHz antenna, NFC chip and USIM chip and an API will be published to third party developers.
However, some critics wondered whether cellphones not designed for NFC would be able to move or use the data arriving on the new USIM module, or whether some handsets would be capable of receiving and transmitting wirelessly through a SIM-borne antenna.