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Vendor Group Projects Nearly 100 Million Secure Elements in 2012; Forecasts Growth to Double Next Year

Apr 29 2013 (All day)

PARIS, France – Smart card vendor association Eurosmart estimates the industry will have shipped nearly 100 million NFC-enabled SIM cards and embedded secure elements by the end of 2012–a figure it projects will double in 2013.

The forecast is not a projection of NFC phone shipments, since some NFC phones can support two or even three secure elements–SIMs–embedded chips and microSD cards–while some NFC phones support no secure elements at all.

NFC chip market leader NXP Semiconductors has said that about two-thirds of its NFC chip shipments this year will include embedded secure elements. Even more of these same NFC chips will support the single-wire protocol standard and SIM cards as secure elements in handsets. Most of NXP’s chip shipments go for NFC-enabled Android phones. UPDATE: Vendor group SIMalliance estimated that vendors shipped 30 million NFC-enabled SIM cards in 2012, meaning most of the secure element shipments were embedded chips for the year. END UPDATE.

The 2012 estimate by Eurosmart of nearly 100 million secure elements falls within the range the vendor group projected a year ago of 80 million to 120 million secure elements for 2012. Eurosmart's secure element shipment figure for 2011 was much less, perhaps 20 million, though the group did not release an exact estimate.

The forecasts take 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 projections also don’t include secure embedded chips in Japanese wallet phones supporting only FeliCa technology, from Japan’s Sony Corp. But they would include NFC SIM cards used in hybrid FeliCa-NFC phones that are starting to appear in handsets in Japan.

Eurosmart announced the forecasts Tuesday at the Cartes trade fair in Paris. The group includes such major smart card vendors as Gemalto, Oberthur Technologies, Giesecke & Devrient and Morpho; and such major NFC secure element producers as NXP Semiconductors, Infineon Technologies and STMicroelectronics, along with such chip makers as Inside Secure and Samsung Semiconductors, which predict they will ship embedded secure elements by next year or sooner. The Eurosmart projections do not only take in forecasts from members, but include estimates for all card and chip suppliers globally.

The vendor group also projected sizable increases in shipments of dual-interface EMV banking cards in 2012 and 2013. By the latter year, dual-interface cards would account for 25% of all EMV banking card shipments, said Eurosmart.

Eurosmart projected shipments of contactless bank cards hit 270 million units in 2012, which could include some cards with contactless-only chips. That is up from an estimated 225 million contactless bank cards in 2011. The group projected that vendors would ship a total 360 million contactless bank cards next year, a 33% increase from 2012.

All told, card vendors will ship a combined 600 contactless banking, government ID cards or documents, transport and other cards and devices in 2012 and 750 million contactless cards and devices across these categories next year, an increase of 25%. The 2012 contactless shipments will still only represent 8.5% of total smart card and device shipments in 2012 and 9.8% in 2013.

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