Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nokia Has Cancelled NFC Handset

Nokia has scrapped its third NFC (Near Field Communication) handset, which has already delayed, the Nokia 6216. The 6216 has never got released despite being scheduled for last year and despite China Unicom’s plans for an NFC launch.

The 6216 would have been Nokia's third NFC handset. However, the first to have handed control of the payment system to the operator's SIM through the Single Wire Protocol (SWP): exactly the architecture that China Unicom will be deploying in the next six months, as NFC World reports.

Nokia remains pretty tight lipped on the reasons behind its cancellation, citing that it felt "the quality of the consumer experience was not what it needed to be". Despite that setback, Nokia leaves the door for future NFC-enabled handsets open by stating that its "commitment to NFC remains as strong as ever."

NFC is a system, which allows a handset (phone) to be used as a proximity-payment system, waved near a reader for small-value transactions such as public transport for example. Those compliant with the NFC Forum's specification can operate through induced power (so work on a battery-dead phone) and are compatible with existing ticketing systems such as London's Oyster card.

However, wireless communications are only half the story - such a system also needs a safe place to store the current balance and the various certificates necessary to secure the system. The obvious place for that is inside the SIM, and operators lobbied hard for the SWP standard which would connect a SIM-based NFC system to the outside world, but despite being a standard for more than two years SWP-compatible handsets still do not exist in significant numbers.

Companies like Nokia would much rather see the secure module embedded in the handset, tying the user to the phone rather than the SIM, and operators have not provided any discouragement. Therefore, the Nokia 6216 would have been a significant phone, if it had been released, which Nokia has now admitted will not happen.

On the other hand, China Unicom has announced it will be launching an NFC-Forum-compatible service, based on SWP, later this year. That is going to have to compete with China Mobile's, incompatible, RF SIM system. However, as China's second network operator Unicom still has more than 125 million subscribers - enough, one might think, to make Nokia think again about the 6216.

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