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Nano-SIM Battle Between Apple, Nokia Delayed

March 30, 2012

Nano-SIM Card

The world will have to wait a bit longer for a new SIM card standard, as officials on Friday failed to adopt a proposal from Apple.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) said in a statement today that its smart card platform technical committee decided at a meeting in France to postpone a decision on the SIM card issue.

"The committee decided to delay any vote on the subject in the interest of trying to achieve a broad industry consensus, which is in keeping with the preferred decision making process at ETSI," the organization said.

Officials will try again during an upcoming meeting in Japan between May 31 and June 1.

At issue is a standard known as nano-SIM, a SIM option even smaller than the existing micro-SIM. A smaller SIM slot means more room for advanced technologies in new gadgets.

As the Financial Times noted earlier this month, however, Apple wants ETSI to adopt its proposal for the slimmer nano-SIM, which is reportedly supported by most European carriers. But rivals like Motorola Mobility, RIM, and Nokia are concerned that Apple might one day own the (very lucrative) patent rights to the technology.

But in a recent post, patent blogger Florian Mueller said a "perfectly reliable source" provided him with a March 19 letter from senior Apple lawyers that promised to "grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM, provided that Apple's proposal is adopted as a standard and that all other patent holders accept the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity."

Mueller said this indicates that "Apple is serious about establishing the nano-SIM standard rather than seeking to cash in on it." Apple is hardly opposed to a good court battle, "but as far as the evolution of SIM cards is concerned, Apple is clearly being generous and absolutely pro-competitive," he said.

Mueller argued that with this promise, other companies have no reason not to accept the nano-SIM standard and should "step up to the plate and match Apple's offer."

In November, Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) unveiled what it said was the world's first nano-SIM card. G&D's nano-SIM card measured 12 millimeters by 9 millimeters and was just 0.64 millimeters thick. In addition to a 15 percent reduction to the thickness of 0.76-millimeter-thick micro-SIM and standard SIM cards, the area of the new SIM card was 30 percent smaller than the 12 millimeter by 9 millimeter micro-SIM card used in devices like Apple's iPhone 4S, and 60 percent smaller than 25 millimeter by 15 millimeter standard SIM cards.

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