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March 21, 2012

Apple pushing out rivals with mobile nano-SIM cards

Apple is using its clout to force its mobile phone making rivals to use its chosen standard for the next generation of mobile SIM cards.

By Vinod

Apple is doing some backroom manoeuvring to ensure that its chosen standard for the next generation of mobile SIM cards is accepted by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

Apple is leading a bid against a rival proposal from Motorola Mobility, Research in Motion and Nokia to ensure that Giesecke & Devrient’s nano-SIM design becomes the standard for the next generation of mobile smartphones. Nano-SIM cards are around a third smaller than micro-SIM cards found in most new phones currently.

Both parties have put their proposals to ETSI, but the Financial Times is reporting that most of the European mobile network operators are favouring Apple’s option. Apple is also working to ensure that its voting power within the independent standards organisation is increased.

While any and all handset makers would be able to use the nano-SIM design under license to Giesecke & Devrient, the fear is that Apple may eventually attempt to own the patent outright. The other companies would have to reengineer their products to suit the standard also.

ETSI will decide on the proposals next week, but the Financial Times is claiming that the voting process itself has seen some backroom dealing by Apple.

The paper claims to have seen documents showing Apple registering six of its European subsidiaries as full members. Under ETSI rules any subsidiary with revenues of more than €8bn can have up to 45 votes, blowing Apple’s voting power out by 270 votes – this would give it more voting power than Nokia.

Apple has long pushed for smaller SIM cards, as the unnecessarily large plastic and silicon takes up space in smartphones that could otherwise be used for more sophisticated phone electronics. It made the iPhone 4 a micro-SIM only phone – the half way house between the traditional SIM card and the proposed nano-SIM.

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At one point Apple pushed to get rid of SIM cards altogether – but this caused a huge backlash amongst telcos. As well as providing some revenue, they remain a symbol of control for the telcos over the device, as they become increasingly marginalised as simple infrastructure providers to OTT service providers such as Google and Apple.

While Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices are fading to irrelevance in Europe, and Nokia’s new partnership with Microsoft on its Lumia devices has had a tepid response, Google now owns Motorola Mobility, opening up a whole new battle between the technological giants, which have raged in markets all around the world in the last few years. Apple and Google have both claimed the other party has infringed on its design patents for its smartphones and tablets.

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