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Apple Against Motorola, Nokia and RIM in SIM Battle

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Apple is confident in its nano-SIM design, but the competitors are worried

Apple has been fighting rival smartphone makers over the industry standard for SIM cards designed for the next generation of handsets.

Nokia, RIM and Motorola (with Google behind it) are concerned Apple might eventually own the patents to the “nano-SIM”. Furthermore, Nokia has accused Apple of trying to obtain an unfair amount of votes in the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, which will decide the fate of SIM cards next week, reports Financial Times.

Cutting down on plastic

There are several ideas on how to make SIM cards smaller. The most influential was devised by Apple. But Nokia, Motorola and RIM are worried the “nano-SIM” will give more power to the iPhone maker.

Miniaturisation of SIM-cards has happened twice before. The very first SIM card was made in 1991, and was the same size as a standard credit card. It was soon replaced by mini-SIM, which featured the same chip, but less plastic.

The current generation of micro-SIM cards were also created with backward compatibility in mind. Used in Apple’s iPhone 4S and Nokia’s Lumia, they once again feature the same chip, same contact position and users can transform any mini-SIM into micro-SIM with the help of a pair of scissors.

The nano-SIM will be thinner and about a third smaller than the micro-SIM and would allow more space for other functions.

Apple’s invention is backed by most European operators. Yet Nokia claims its competing design offers significant technical advantages. Both groups have submitted proposals to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

Although all handset makers would be able to use the design chosen under FRAND licence, Nokia, Motorola and RIM worry that the US group might eventually own the patents to the nano-SIM. Companies have used FRAND patents in legal cases over the past year.

ETSI members will decide on the proposals on 29 March. The voting process within the independent standards body has come under scrutiny this week following a move by Apple to significantly increase its number of votes.

According to Financial Times, Apple has applied to become the largest voting group in the organisation, having registered six European subsidiaries to become full members at a meeting in Cannes on Monday. Any subsidiary with revenues of more than €8 billion (£6.66 billion) can have up to 45 votes. The decision on membership is expected this week.

Nokia is currently the largest voting body in ETSI, with about 92 votes.

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