Sophia Antipolis, France, December 8, 2003.
ETSI project Smart Card Platform (EP SCP) at their recent plenary meeting agreed to the introduction of a new smart card, which is half the size of the existing Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card.
Market forces are behind the decision; there are already many data-only GSM terminals on the market, many of them using the familiar PC-card form factor. However, with the development of even smaller terminals, the point may soon be reached where the plug-in card occupies too much volume in the terminal, especially in those devices whose secondary purpose will be to communicate, such as digital cameras or watches.
The work item for the so-called Third Form Factor, "3FF", was agreed, after intensive discussions, at the SCP meeting held last week in London. Historically, there are already two form factors, the full credit card-sized card and the postage stamp-sized plug-in card. The latter is the norm for GSM terminals, a market that has now seen more than 2 billion smart cards deployed.
Backward compatibility was an issue
Early on it was evident that the contact area was a major issue for backwards compatibility, so it was decided that this would be a determining factor for the work. In addition, it was agreed that the smaller card size must not affect the performance of the smart card, by limiting chip size. So the decision is that the contact area remains the same, and the result is that the third form factor will be a smaller version of the existing plug-in card, with much of the excess plastic cut away, but in such a way as not to impose restrictions on the chip size.
The chairman of EP SCP, Dr Klaus Vedder, said:
"With this decision, we can see that ETSI has responded to a market need from ETSI customers, but additionally there is a strong desire not to invalidate, overnight, the existing interface, nor reduce the performance of the cards. EP SCP expect to finalise the technical realisation for the Third Form Factor at the next SCP plenary meeting, scheduled for February 2004."
ETSI : 08/12/2003