Here Come the NFC Phones

Nearly 28 percent of global smartphones sold to end users will be equipped with Near-Field Communications (NFC) in 2015, according to a new forecast from Pyramid Research .

Pyramid believes that, in the short term, the supply of NFC-enabled handsets will at least get the technology into the hands of consumers. And, in the medium-to-long term, NFC services will become more common and will work well consistently, while security concerns will dissipate. The net result should be continued growth of NFC-enabled handset sales, to 250 million sold to end users in 2014.

Other analyst firms are just as bullish on the opportunities. Juniper Research Ltd. predicts that one in five smartphones, or 300 million, worldwide will have NFC by 2014. The firm sees the growth being driven by mobile network operators launching services in 20 early adopting countries by the end of 2012. (See CTIA 2011: Operators Avoid App Syndrome With NFC .)

In North America, that would include all of the Tier 1 operators, as the big four have all committed to deploying services. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US Inc. , through their Isis joint venture, intend to launch services in early to mid-2012, while Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has vowed to race ahead with its own service out before the year's end. (See Isis Heads to Salt Lake City and Sprint Stakes Its mCommerce Claim.)

By 2015, Pyramid says that 89 percent of the total sales to end users will come from North America, Asia-Pacific and Western Europe, but that sales will already begin to skyrocket this year and next.

Likewise, Juniper predicts that North America will be home to half of all NFC smartphones in 2014, followed by Western Europe.

Among the handset makers that have committed to building NFC phones are Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC), BlackBerry , Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763), although speculation is high that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will include the capability in its next iPhone 5.

High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498), LG-Ericsson Co. Ltd. and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications are also among the companies rumored to be making moves soon.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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