GSMA reports on NFC adoption at MWC, SIM trends and HCE

One in nine attendees at Mobile World Congress (11.8%) made use of the NFC Badge function available at this year’s event, the GSMA has told NFC World, and there was a “significant increase” in the number of people participating in the NFC Experience as a whole this year.

GSMA president Pierre Combelle
COMBELLES: Still a lot of questions when it comes to HCE

In all, 10,000 of the event’s 85,000 visitors used the NFC Badge service and a total of 51,000 NFC interactions were made across the Fira Gran Via venue. Last year, 10,500 people used the NFC Experience.

Incipio distributed 12,000 NFC cases for iPhones free of charge in the “first couple of days” of the event. “That was a real positive,” GSMA media director Claire Cranton told NFC World. “We heard a lot of very positive comments about the opportunity given to participate and it wasn’t just tapping and downloading information, there was more interaction and networking.”

“We saw more people using NFC more broadly than last year,” Cranton continued. “We are happy with the figures and happy with the feedback we got from people who were using it everyday during the event.”

The GSMA now predicts that shipments of NFC SIM cards will increase by two-thirds in 2014 compared to 2013 — and, despite the arrival of host card emulation (HCE), it believes that secure element on NFC SIMs will continue to be the preferred choice for payments service providers for “now and the short term.”

“It could be more than two-thirds; we’re keeping this figure as our forecast for the time being, but it could even be more,” Pierre Combelles, the GSMA’s head of NFC, told NFC World. “I don’t know exactly what the ratio is between 2013 and 2012, but it was already a very strong increase between those two years so we’re not saying it’s going to be a fantastic disruption — it’s normal industry growth.

“We think there’s a lot of room in Asia and China in particular for this. Europe has slowed down by fragmentation; there are so many operators in different markets that it makes deployments of NFC SIM cards a bit more complex in terms of the ecosystem, but it is progressing and increasing steadily.”

“Of course, you could argue that there are other technologies coming that could be competitors that could push the other way in terms of volume, but to us, these numbers are still relevant,” Combelles continued. “When it comes to HCE, I think it’s a matter of when they [service providers] want to deploy something. Whether it’s now or in the short term, the answer is clearly through a secure element.

“The message we are trying to get over is that there is clearly a difference here of maturity between the two approaches. Whether you do it through a secure element or via a cloud-based approach, all of the security and risk management needs to be taken very cautiously. It’s important and very interesting to look at the first trials of HCE, and we will start seeing what issues remain to be solved.”

“We really want the industry to be well informed and well aware of the level of maturity to both approaches and what they have to do to go to scale with one or the other. For us, it’s clear that there are still a lot of opening questions when it comes to HCE,” Combelles added.