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NFC lacks software for mobile payment vision

Posted: 30 Apr 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cell phone  mobile payment system  NFC 

Near Field Communication may be launching an enabling technology for mobile payment systems through cell phone handsets by the year 2010 if not for the lack of crucial software infrastructure and silicon opportunities in the company, based on a report to EE Times Market Intelligence Unit.

The group also submitted reports on the developments of the road map to 100Gbps Ethernet and the outlook for Advanced TCA systems.

Loring Wirbel, a veteran EE Times editor and head of the new market research team said, "a true mobile-payments market likely will not emerge until 2010."

"If investment-bank conservatism spreads to the consumer banking community, this could postpone mobile-payment NFC to the next decade," he added.

Wirbel said the handful of existing NFC chipmakers characterise the market as still in a stage of expanding trials. They do not expect to see "even moderate volumes of controller sales before mid-2009 or later," he wrote.

One of the key gating items for this market is the development of "a broad ecosystem of card-reader sub-systems, system-integration tools, and dedicated application software," according to the report. That includes "support software and backend billing services," which need to define models for handling secure transactions, Wirbel wrote.

The report notes that cell phone makers have been conservative about integrating NFC into handsets to date, given the number and complexity of radios handsets already support. Similarly, the software and systems integration companies needed to support mobile payment systems are stepping forward cautiously, Wirbel said.

In terms of silicon, "it is unlikely that more than three or four semiconductor players will be able to sustain a position in this market," according to the report.

Specifically, Wirbel called for chipmakers STMicroelectronics and NXP to rationalise their NFC products in the wake of the recent merger of their cellular chip divisions. "They should think seriously about developing a common architecture that takes a best-of-both-worlds approach," Wirbel said.

The NFC chips from Inside Contactless are among the most mature to date because they combine hardwired NFC blocks with programmable capabilities for changing security standards, according to Wirbel. Whether other potential players such as Atmel and Qualcomm jump into this market remains to be seen, he added.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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