Sagem Orga and Telenor use WiFi to add NFC to 100% of mobile phones

The Norwegian telecoms firm and the SIM and smart card specialist are using an NFC-enabled key fob in combination with a new wireless-enabled SIM to deliver NFC functionality to 100% of today’s mobile phones.

CONNECTION: The companies have come up with an NFC keyfob that connects to a phone's SIM via Wifi integrated into both devices

Norwegian telecoms operator Telenor and SIM and smart card supplier Sagem Orga have announced the development of a new method of delivering NFC functionality to existing mobile phones.

The new solution uses an NFC-enabled key fob in combination with a wireless-enabled SIM card and, say the two companies, it will work with 100% of today’s mobile phones.

Sagem Orga, Telenor and STMicroelectronics are demonstrating the new solution in live payments/ticketing demos at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

“Use cases for NFC are numerous, but until today there has been a gap: The infrastructure is there, but no NFC-enabled phones,” says Sagem Orga. “The industry has been looking for ways of bridging this gap. Previous bridge solutions have drawbacks such as missing network connections or user interactivity, and none of the existing solutions leverages the SIM card in the mobile phone with all its capabilities. The new solution by Sagem Orga and partners overcomes these disadvantages. Mobile network operators will be able to fully manage and control NFC applications thanks to the SIM card.”

For the demo solution, a key fob has been equipped with a Sagem Orga NFC-enabled SIM card connected by Single Wire Protocol to a ST21NFCA chip from ST Microelectronics to enable the contactless functionality.

The NFC key fob connects to the SIM in the mobile phone via a new SIM technology called WLAN SIM that uses WiFi to form the bridge between the NFC device and the SIM card in a mobile phone.

“Any NFC application, such as mobile payment or Calypso for transportation, can be installed on the SIM card of the mobile phone and/or the NFC key fob using any traditional or over-the-air mechanism,” says Sagem Orga. “It can be executed in both devices or only in one of them, depending on the required performance, resources and connectivity.”

For example, a terminal for contactless banking can trigger the mobile payment application stored in the key fob to start a transaction. Next the key fob starts a remote SIM Toolkit execution on the SIM inserted in the mobile phone to enable interaction with the user, such as asking for a password, displaying a message or logging information to the network.

With the same key fob solution, the user can also start a SIM Toolkit application on the mobile phone to order new transportation e-tickets. In this scenario, the Calypso vending server would then use the normal OTA infrastructure to send the tickets securely to the SIM and on to the key fob.

“The WLAN communication channel between the SIM in the handset and the secure element in the key fob is highly secured and can be protected by a PKI mechanism if needed,” Sagem Orga explains.

“We believe that this innovative wireless bridge between NFC and the SIM card can give operators greater flexibility in the launch of NFC services,” explains Yogesh Malik, senior vice president at Telenor Group business development and research. “We hope to see this technology refined further through tests and trials so that it can become a user-friendly commercial product for services in ticketing, payment and access control.”

“The NFC key fob in combination with the WLAN SIM brings more convenience and security to contactless technology,” adds Didier Sérodon, chief technology officer at Sagem Orga. “We are demonstrating the advantages of a constant connection between the SIM in the mobile phone and the secure element in the accessory via a wireless link with examples from the transportation and the mobile payment area, but this can also pave the way for all classic NFC use cases such as access control, loyalty, etc. All of them can be managed by the NFC key fob.”

WLAN SIM, developed by Sagem Orga and Telenor, is the world’s first WiFi-enabled SIM and is designed to combine WiFi functionality on a mobile phone with the security of a SIM card.

“The SIM card has always been recognized as the secure element inside a mobile phone,” says Sagem Orga. “However, to date, mobile network operators have not been able to leverage its security features to bring trusted services in the field for fixed-mobile convergence and, in particular, to initiate communications with other proximity devices. Only phone to phone communication is possible, but in many ways such as infrared, Bluetooth, etc, the SIM card is not involved at all. User authentication on a PC is already possible via SIM card, but it would be more convenient to have one general and standardized way instead of different ones for each mobile phone model and provider.

“To overcome all these barriers and inconveniences, Sagem Orga is launching the first WLAN SIM. Equipped with a Telenor Wi-Fi module, it will be able to communicate independently with all other devices in the mobile ecosystem to enable strong security services managed by the mobile network operator. The WLAN SIM card can be used in any kind of mobile phone to enable fixed-mobile convergence, proximity transactions, trusted peer-to-peer operations between two SIM cards, strong authentication services, Web security and a large and varied set of use cases.”

“This innovative technology has the capability of opening up new business opportunities for operators and can also provide the possibility of deploying a range of new proximity services with a high degree of security and reliability,” Malik explains. “Through the cooperation with Sagem Orga we are now exploring different use cases that involve other operators. The purpose of this is to verify the potential of the technology and get valuable market feedback.”

“The SIM needs to open itself to the world,” concludes Jean-Christophe Tisseuil, head of marketing and business development for the telecommunications product line at Sagem Orga. “It’s the only way forward when talking about user authentication.”

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