Apple has made a proposal to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) as the firm looks to incorporate a new type of smaller SIM card into its forthcoming iPhone.
A spokesman for ETSI confirmed that Apple had made the proposal, but said that nothing has been approved at this stage.
"Apple submitted a proposal to the Smart Card Platform technical committee, but it was not agreed upon at this time. No technical details about the proposal were provided," he told V3.co.uk.
"Apple appears to have got backing from at least one other member, but the ultimate success and speed of implementation will depend on the consensus among ETSI members."
A member meeting is scheduled for 14 June, and it will be up to Apple to decide whether to bring this matter up again, the spokesman added.
Orange confirmed to V3.co.uk that it is supporting Apple's application.
"At Orange we support standardisation and believe in its benefits for the telecoms industry and our customers," a spokesperson said in a statement.
"We like to see all appropriate developments go through a standardisation process and are pleased that Apple has submitted this SIM to ETSI."
The introduction of a new physical SIM card standard would not be surprising and could fundamentally change the mobile phone ecosystem, according to Jeremy Green, practice leader at Ovum's telco strategy team.
"The new SIM card will not only be smaller, it is highly likely to be reconfigurable, which will give Apple increased control over user activity," he told V3.co.uk.
"Apple may be able to update the device's International Mobile Subscriber Identity number, issue updates and even allow customers to change networks over the air without requiring them to replace their SIM."
However, Green argued that any attempt by Apple to make the transition towards software-based SIM cards would be met with fierce resistance by the networks.
"The SIM card is the only piece of hardware that carriers can claim in mobile devices. Operators deem the physical SIM cards safer than their software counterparts, which present a target for hackers."
Green also noted that Apple will have to tread carefully not to damage the iPhone subsidy arrangements in place with mobile operators.
Reports suggest that the fifth-generation iPhone may have been delayed until later this year, and that Apple may be waiting until it knows the result of its proposal.
"If the physical SIM card is approved, it is likely to take a few months before it is ready," Green said.
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