Nokia will block nano-SIM standard if Apple's proposal is chosen

Apple is misusing the standardization process, according to Nokia

Nokia will not contribute its patents to the upcoming nano-SIM standard if an Apple proposal is selected in what Nokia said Wednesday is a violation of standard organization ETSI's rules.

The two companies are fighting an increasingly nasty battle over which proposal will be used as the basis for a new, smaller SIM card, dubbed nano-SIM (or 4FF for the fourth form factor, which is the official name).

On Thursday or Friday, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute is scheduled to vote on the Apple and Nokia proposals. The latter is also backed by Research In Motion and Motorola Mobility.

However, it now looks like the development of the standard will turn into a long and drawn-out process as Nokia said it won't contribute its own IPR to the standard if the Apple proposal is chosen.

If a company with patents doesn't agree to license them under so-called fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, the proposal would have to go back to the drawing board, according to ETSI. Nokia holds more than 50 patent families covering SIM-related technologies that the company believes may be essential to Apple's proposal, it said.

When ETSI, whose membership includes both vendors and operators, makes its decision, the standards organization may decide to go with one of the proposals, both or none of them, ETSI said. The organization doesn't want to comment on Nokia's plans, according to a spokesman.

Earlier this week, Apple said the company will grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM, to which Nokia answered that the company isn't aware of any Apple intellectual property that it considers essential to its nano-SIM proposal.

The reason for Nokia's aggressive stance is because it has "become clear that ETSI's current work on the 4FF standard is in conflict with ETSI's agreed rules" and that "Apple is misusing the standardization process," the company said in a statement attributed to its CTO Henry Tirri.

First of all, Apple's proposal doesn't meet ETSI technical specifications, which means that the proposal shouldn't even be voted on. Apple has also attempted to buy more votes by registering local subsidiaries as members and also lobbied outside the standardization committee, according to a Nokia spokesman.

To the casual observer, this doesn't put Nokia is a very good light, but the company is a firm believer in the correct use of standardization, he said.

ETSI could approve the Nokia-Motorola-RIM proposal. But Apple's proposal seems to have the support of operators, which, to some extent, is indicative of the strength of Apple's current position, according to Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight.

Apple has stayed silent as Nokia has attacked it and didn't reply to questions about the latest salvo.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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