Vendor Group Forecasts Up to 120 Million NFC Secure Elements for 2012
Smart card association Eurosmart forecasts that vendors will ship 80 million to 120 million secure elements in 2012, as chip and card vendors begin their first significant shipments of NFC-enabled SIMs and embedded secure elements for NFC phones.
The forecast is not a projection of NFC phone shipments, since some NFC phones could support two or even three secure elements–SIMs, embedded chips and microSD cards–while some NFC phones likely will support no secure elements at all.
Eurosmart, which released the projection during this week’s Cartes & IDentification conference and exhibition in Paris, said the industry would hit the upper end of the forecast range only if mobile operators and banks “aggressively” market NFC services. Handset makers, of course, would have to include support for NFC secure elements in a number of their new smartphones, noted the group.
The forecast takes in NFC-enabled SIM cards that support the single-wire protocol standard, as well as embedded chips and microSD cards, but not apparently microSDs with embedded antennas. The projection also doesn’t include secure chips in Japanese wallet phones supporting only FeliCa technology, from Japan’s Sony Corp.
NFC secure elements are mainly used to store payment and other applications requiring protection of cryptographic keys or sensitive data.
The projected shipments for 2012 compares with much lower shipments of NFC secure elements this year, said Marc Bertin, Eurosmart chairman and chief technology and strategy officer for France-based card vendor Oberthur Technologies.
“We had forecasted 15 million for 2011, (but) it’s more than that,” he told NFC Times, adding that from 2012 onward, Eurosmart predicts that NFC secure elements will be a “major contributor to the growth of the (smart card and chip) market.”
Q3 NFC SIM Shipments Top 6 Million
Bertin declined to say how many secure elements Eurosmart now projects will be shipped during 2011 and how many of those would be NFC-enabled SIM cards. But NFC Times has learned that SIM suppliers estimate they shipped 6.8 million NFC SIMs during the third quarter of 2011, according to unreleased figures from a separate vendor group, the SIMalliance.
Most were purchased by South Korea’s three major telcos, which are all rolling out NFC. Estimates are that the Korean telcos, led by KT Corp., along with SK Telecom, the country’s largest operator, took delivery of more than 5 million NFC-enabled SIMs during the quarter.
Most other regions or countries received far fewer shipments, with vendors shipping about 800,000 NFC-enabled SIMs to the Middle East. That was probably sales to such operators as Etisalat of the United Arab Emirates, which is reportedly planning an NFC launch before the end of the year with a MasterCard PayPass application stored on SIM cards in one or more NFC-enabled BlackBerry smartphones.
Vendors shipped fewer than 600,000 NFC SIMs to mobile operators in Western Europe during the quarter and almost no NFC SIMs to North American operators, according to the SIMalliance. The European figure no doubt includes shipments to certain telcos in the United Kingdom and also in France, which are in limited NFC-rollout mode. In addition, there were at least a million NFC SIM shipments to China, though it’s unclear for which projects.
Nearly A Quarter of Bank Cards are Contactless
Meanwhile, on the Eurosmart projections, the vendor group said a growing percentage of banking smart cards contain contactless chips.
Eurosmart forecast its members would ship a little more than 1 billion EMV and other banking smart cards this year, of which 225 million–or about 22%–would be contactless. The latter takes in EMV cards with dual-interface chips and bank cards with standalone contactless chips, such as those shipped to the United States.
Contactless bank cards will account for 24% of all banking smart cards in 2012, during which Eurosmart predicts vendors will ship 290 million contactless payment cards out of a total 1.2 billion chip-based bank cards.
Contactless bank card shipments are clearly growing at a faster rate–at 29% in 2012–than overall banking smart card shipments, which will increase by a projected 19%, according to Eurosmart.
Eurosmart includes the NFC secure-element forecasts as part of its telecom category. This category is made up almost entirely of SIM card shipments, which are projected to reach 5.1 billion SIMs next year.
The vendor group also forecast vendors would ship 160 contactless ID and health cards in 2012, up by 28% from 2011. And contactless transit cards–those with higher-end security using microprocessor chips–would grow by 19% to 95 million units in 2012.
There would be 35 million other contactless cards shipped during the year, for a total 580 million contactless cards or units, up by 26% from the 460 million contactless units shipped during 2011.
The association includes such major card makers as Gemalto, Oberthur Technologies, Giesecke & Devrient and Safran Morpho; and such major chip makers as Infineon Technologies, Samsung Semiconductor, Renesas Electronics, STMicroelectronics and Inside Secure.
The members contribute their global shipment data for the overall forecasts. The group then adds in estimates for shipments for vendors not in the association. Eurosmart, however, does not release figures for individual members.