Vote on nano-SIM standard postponed after row

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has decided to postpone a vote on a specification for nano-SIMs, after a row erupted between Apple and the backers of a competing proposal, Nokia, Research In Motion (RIM) and Motorola Mobility.

ETSI is working on a standard for a new, smaller SIM card, dubbed nano-SIM (or 4FF for the fourth form factor, which is the official name).

A committee met this week to vote on the proposals but, in the end, the differences between the two camps turned out to be too big, and ETSI decided not to hold the vote. It will now be at least 30 days before it can be rescheduled because ETSI rules require 30 days’ notice of such votes, according to a spokesman at Giesecke & Devrient, which makes SIM cards.

The committee decided to delay the vote in the interest of trying to achieve a broad industry consensus, which is in keeping with the preferred decision-making process at ETSI, the standards organization said in a statement.

The next planned opportunity for a decision is at the forthcoming meeting in Osaka, which will take place on May 31 May and June 1. An earlier meeting may be called to deal with this subject, according to ETSI.

The failure to reach a conclusion at this point shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the lead-up to the meeting was contentious.

Both RIM and Nokia have tried their best to cast doubt on Apple’s efforts. On Wednesday, RIM sent a letter to ETSI complaining about Apple employees registering for the meeting representing a completely different company. But voting by proxy during a technical body meeting is not allowed, according to RIM.

Nokia, for its part, accused Apple of misusing the standardization process and said that it wouldn’t license essential patents related to Apple’s proposal if that proposal won.

The Finnish phone maker was pleased that ETSI decided to postpone the vote, according to a statement. The company hopes the extra time will allow ETSI members to work collaboratively on selecting the best technology that meets ETSI’s pre-agreed requirements, rather than adopting an inferior solution, it said.

Nokia has previously complained that Apple’s proposal doesn’t meet ETSI’s pre-agreed requirements.

Despite the conflict, the Giesecke & Devrient spokesman said it is worth the effort to develop a new SIM format. When the nano-SIM card eventually becomes standardized, its smaller size will free up room inside phones for additional memory and larger batteries, helping phone vendors create thinner devices, he said.

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