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STMicroelectronics Announces First Design Win for NFC Controller Chip

Chip maker STMicroelectronics has announced its first design win for its NFC controller chip, with small Japan-based device maker NEC Casio.

ST confirmed that the Casio’s G’zOne CA-201L Android phone will include its NFC controller, the ST21NFCA. For now at least, the ruggedized 4G LTE Casio phone is only planned to be introduced by one mobile operator, South Korea’s No. 3 telco, LG U+.

The phone does not include ST’s higher-profile embedded secure element, the ST33, only the NFC controller or modem chip, which provides the NFC interface for the device. But this controller chip could support NFC SIM cards, and it’s possible the SIMs would use an ST smart card chip. ST’s SIM chips use the same technology as its embedded secure element.

A spokeswoman for ST told NFC Times that the Switzerland-based chip maker has other design wins with device makers for its ST21NFCA controller, but declined to release details.

ST first introduced an NFC controller in 2008, an earlier version of the ST21NFCA, but until the Casio phone, had not announced any handsets supporting its chip. That is not counting at least one feature phone, from LG Electronics, announced more than four years ago. This might have been a sample version of the phone.

NXP Semiconductors dominated the early NFC market, supplying chips to Nokia and Samsung feature phones and, later, Symbian devices and all of the Android NFC phones released in 2011 and most of 2012. Inside Secure has supplied the controllers for all NFC-enable BlackBerrys. And South Korea-based Samsung Semiconductors has netted at least one design win, with the Samsung bada-based Wave Y.

Starting in 2012, U.S.-based Broadcom has captured some significant design wins, including the Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 from Google and the Samsung Galaxy S 4.

ST has had more luck of late with its embedded secure element for NFC phones. Broadcom’s BCM20793 standalone is connected to ST’s embedded chip in the Nexus devices, as well as the forthcoming Galaxy S 4.

The NFC embedded smart card chip in the Nexus and Galaxy S 4 devices offer a total of 1.2 megabytes of flash memory and run an Oberthur Technologies operating system. The embedded chip supports the Google Wallet in the Nexus devices and, later, will have a preloaded payWave application on the Galaxy S 4. That could take some months to implement, however. Other preloaded payment applets could follow, Samsung has said.

 

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