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March 30, 2012, 4:28 a.m.
John Devlin Practice Director
Someone asked me recently if I felt that the NFC market developments which I have written about recently http://bit.ly/Hqcw36 had affected my forecasts for this year and next. For the record, my current expectation for this year is 81M handsets, and 174M in 2013.
Despite the proclamations of the advent of the new dawn I have to be honest and say no. At this point in time I am not seeing significant enough traction in terms of MNOs placing high volume orders for NFC-enabled handsets to justify any change at this time.
Orange is the only MNO that I am aware of to have put out a target for NFC handsets in circulation, and it was certainly on the conservative side of things. Having previously said 1M handsets was the target in France last year, this was revised down to 500K handsets, a target which was belatedly hit a few weeks ago. And the target for this year? 3M! And in 2013 it is aiming for 10M. This is not even in France alone, this is across its (primarily European) networks.
So whilst I am a fan of NFC, I am also a realist. And for this reason I am sticking, not twisting when it comes to my forecasts for NFC handsets this year. The MNOs have not fully identified their business cases for NFC, they don't quite fully trust the technology, or that they will be able to make money from it - which is as much a problem as anything else. By delaying investment they risk missing out altogether.
There has been some progress but it is limited. Vodafone has now stepped up and gone to the next level, appointing a TSM, as did O2 previously (although the silence on its progress is deafening). However, no significant launches, no flagship devices being promoted and no confirmed dates or targets. At least Orange has gone that far.
Their news, along with Isis' selected few cities, and Google's limited launch makes it clear that there will not be a grand stampede or flood of devices. Launches will be tentative so that they can be proven, and then they will be expanded and ramped up. Turkey and Korea have shown this to be the case and I expect that the same will be true in Japan, China, the US and the selected European countries this year and next.