Industry Insights

February 15, 2017

Aligning the GSMA and NFC Forum with ISO Standards for Public Transport

The key to ensure NFC interoperability between NFC mobile devices and public transport readers

Over the last 10 years, ticketing services in the public transport sector using NFC technology have become more and more popular. Using the smartphone to access public transport services brought together two industries with NFC standards which were not fully compatible. This has led to interoperability problems between mobile phones and contactless ticket readers. To combat these diverging tendencies, it is essential that all involved standardization bodies align their technical standards.


Two Industries – Two Different Standards

Contactless smart card ticket readers deployed by the public transport industry are based on the contactless standards ISO/IEC 14443 and 18092. However, the majority of existing mobile devices on the market were designed and tested against NFC Forum specifications. Although the specifications by NFC Forum were based on the ISO standards, they showed slight deviations, especially within the analog specification. Due to technical differences between NFC Forum Analog and ISO/IEC 14443 specifications, it was not possible to ensure full interoperability between the NFC Forum-compliant mobile devices and the contactless ISO readers installed in the transport industry. That led to a poor user experience and consequently to a weak acceptance. A user who has tried to use eTicketing by mobile phone and has failed for a couple of times will never try again.

The Approach: Ensuring Interoperability by Defining One Binding Standard

Since there is no certification program by ISO, the GSMA and NFC Forum negotiated if and how an alignment could be reached. In order to establish future NFC interoperability between mobile devices and transport infrastructure, the GSMA initiated a series of “NFC Transport Workshops” in 2014. The NFC Forum and the transport industry (CEN, ISO, STA, and Public Transport Associations) worked together to find a common standard for the NFC analog requirements and testing procedures.

First Achievements – Aligning ISO and NFC Forum Standards

  • The NFC Forum Analog specification V2.0, which was published in June 2016, is aligned with ISO/IEC 14443
  • The corresponding NFC Forum test specification and test cases were introduced into the GSMA TS.27 NFC Handset Test Book and added to the GCF (Global Certification Forum) Work Item 236 in June 2016.
  • Starting 2017, mobile device vendors will be required to certify their devices according to the new test specification.
  • A cooperation agreement between the NFC Forum and the GCF has been signed. From now on, GCF and NFC Forum labs can run NFC Forum test cases and recognize test results across both organizations.
  • COMPRION introduced its NFC Forum Analog Test Solution at GCF.


As a result, NFC mobile devices which are designed and tested according to the new V2.0 NFC Forum Analog specification can be used as a platform for fare media and card reader systems according to ISO/IEC14443, ISO/IEC18092 (FeliCa).

The final goal of the ongoing work is to further improve the worldwide public transport sector so that passengers can quickly and easily board while fare collection and access work seamlessly and are handled accurately. Once finalized, NFC is the perfect key technology to deliver a smooth and positive user experience regardless of the country and the transport system.


Claus André Madsen, Business Development Manager

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