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NFC Is Appealing But Lacks Infrastructure

A usability test performed by Philips showed that U.S. residents might embrace NFC, but an ABI Research report says the technology needs a stronger, more uniform infrastructure.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Additionally, the research indicates that a uniform application programming interface needs to be created for NFC phones, to provide a universal platform for NFC software applications to communicate with NFC hardware. Despite the current hardware and software hurdles, ABI predicts more than 50 percent of all mobile handsets will contain NFC technology by the year 2010.

Michielsen notes, however, that the production of NFC phones is dependent upon demand from mobile phone network carriers, whom he says "have been hesitant to move forward with NFC handset requests" for trials and services. However, for carriers such as Sprint that provide cell-phone service based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology, NFC phones are currently unavailable because CMDA-based NFC phones do not yet exist.

"There's no general incompatibility between CDMA and NFC," says Martin Buehrlen, NFC program director for Philips Semiconductor, "but the phone manufacturers have been focused on adding NFC to Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) phones." He says he has seen prototypes of CDMA NFC-enabled phones, but could not reveal the names of the manufacturers creating them. In Europe, all carriers use GSM technology, while in North America, CDMA dominates. Asia utilizes a combination of the two technologies.

The report predicts that the emergence of CDMA NFC-enabled handsets will promote more NFC technology trials, because more carriers in North America will then be able to participate.

Currently, Cingular Wireless is involved in the aforementioned trial in Atlanta. In Europe, Orange, the global mobile telecommunications provider owned by France Telecom, is involved in an NFC trial with Nokia, Samsung, a Monoprix supermarket, a Galeries Lafayette department store and nine other retail locations in Caen, France.

More technology trials, especially those focused on using phones for payments, are also vital to the successful, global deployment of NFC technology, according to ABI. The full 90-page report, "Near Field Communications (NFC): Simplifying and Expanding Contactless Commerce, Connectivity and Content" is available for purchase at the ABI Web site, priced at $4,200.

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