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Digitimes: NXP and Inside account for 96% of NFC chips

Thursday 24 May 2012

NFC phone chips

According to this study, NXP led the 2011 market for NFC phone chips with a 52% share, followed by Inside Secure with 44%. The pair took a combined 96% share of the market, leaving only 4% for all remaining players.

  • NXP supplies NFC solutions to almost all Android devices thanks to its close relationship with Google. The company is also shipping chips to Nokia for the vendor's Symbian smartphones,
  • RIM started incorporating NFC chips into its products in Q3/2011, which has boosted Inside Secure's shipments rapidly,
  • Other players including MStar and STMicroelectronics have begun shipping their NFC solutions in small volumes to Japan- and China-based handset vendors. There are also a number of new entrants actively engaged in the business.

 

Secure element

In the NFC security chip (secure element) market, Infineon grabbed a more than 50% share in 2011 followed by NXP with almost 40%. The remaining 10% was shared by other companies.

 

Design-ins

NXP has an advantage of being a major supplier for Android devices. For instance, Samsung's Galaxy series (Nexus, S2) and Sony's Xperia S adopt the NFC solutions provided by NXP. The company has cumulatively 130 design-ins as of February 2012, compared to 40 as of May 2011. The number is expected to continue rising buoying NXP's NFC phone chip shipments in 2012.

Inside Secure saw its NFC-chip shipments grow robustly in 2012, mainly thanks to RIM's launch of NFC-capable Blackberry models. Inside Secure has entered an agreement with Intel to provide the chip giant with access to its NFC solutions. Intel will incorporate Inside Secure's technology into its future generations of mobile processors and chipsets for PC models and ultrabooks.

 

 

NFC chip evolution

Infineon led the 2011 market for smart card MCU chips with a 20% share. The leadership highlights its technology advantage.

In the face of falling NFC chip prices, Infineon has moved to focus on the market for secure elements. The company now offers a complete line of secure chips for a variety of device form factors.

 

STMicroelectronics now offers a more complete portfolio of NFC secure elements for embedded security, SIM cards and secure SoC solutions featuring integrated NFC technology.

STMicroelectronics also partners with Gemalto for smart card development, and also cooperates with NFC chip firm NXP to jointly develop API (application programming interface) for NFC applications on mobile devices running.

 

Renesas Electronics currently leads the global MCU market with an almost 30% share.

Utilizing its advanced MCU technology, Renesas develops a single-chip solution - dubbed RF21S - which integrates its RS-4 secure MCU, an NFC controller and secure functions.

 

Samsung ranked third among the global leading smart card MCU companies in 2011. However, in terms of shipment volume, Samsung ranked No.1.

Being a top leader in both smartphone and SIM card IC markets, Samsung should be able to enhance its competitiveness in the NFC chip market.

 

Broadcom acquired NFC specialist Innovision in June 2010 to gain access to Innovision's technologies.

With its existing strength in the wireless chip segment, Broadcom in 2011 started shipping its first NFC chip, the BCM2079x, which pairs with its BCM4330 3-in-1 wireless combo.

Broadcom is expected to roll out a 4-in-1 combo device integrating NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM.

 

Texas Instruments in early 2012 announced WiLink 8.0, its next generation of wireless chips for smartphones and other mobile devices. The chip family integrates up to five different radios - Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth and FM.

 

Overall, there are two directions in NFC-chip development - standalone integration and embedded.

  • The idea of standalone integration is to have an NFC chip and a secure element in a SiP package. Companies that offer the solutions include NXP, Inside Secure, Renesas, Samsung Electronics and STMicroelectronics.
  • An NFC chip can also be embedded along with other wireless components into a combo solution for consumer mobile applications such as mobile phones. Major wireless chip vendors including Qualcomm, TI, Broadcom and CSR have entered the foray.

With more players stepping into the NFC chip market, prices are set to fall further. Mid-range and high-end chips currently quoted at US$3-5 (EUR 2.35 to 3.90) will likely see their ASPs slip close to the entry-level segment that currently is priced at below US$ 1 (EUR 0.78). Companies dedicated to producing NFC secure element chips will find their niche thanks to a high technology barrier. Major players in the field are Infineon and STMicroelectronics.