Russia expects its own chip for bank cards as early as 2015

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Pursuing the goal of setting up its own payment operation and clearing centers to circumvent US-based Visa and MasterCard, Russia may have its own homemade chip for banking cards as early as next year.

According to East-West Digital News, the first all English-language online resource dedicated to Russian digital industries, citing the Russian business daily Vedomosti, microelectronics developer and manufacturer Mikron Group has high hopes of getting a new chip certified with MasterCard and Visa no later than in 2015, then starting production of up to 10 million such chips a month. The price will be “competitive enough to rival foreign chipmakers’ products,” Mikron spokesman Alexei Dianov said.

The banking chip, which Mikron claims has been made to 90-nanometer design rule to ensure enhanced kernel crypto-protection, will feature the PayPass and PayWave contact and contactless technologies that enable easy payments at stores equipped with reader devices.

Mikron will not invest any money in the project, according to Mr. Dianov, as a production line fully furnished for this kind of work was launched as far back as early 2012 to support the manufacture of Russia’s universal electronic card (UEC), an ambitious national project which then-President Dmitry Medvedev had earlier termed a “primary ID card” for all Russians. The project lost some of its luster a year ago when it ran into overwhelming implementation costs.

So far Russia has relied solely on chip imports from such global manufacturers as STMicroelectronics, Infineon and Samsung. There is a security issue to deal with, Sberbank senior vice president Viktor Orlovsky noted pointedly in an exchange with Vedomosti, as foreign chips may be used as a spying tool to track users and their financial transactions. This raises concerns for all Russian banks – and has apparently given the domestic chip-producing company a good leg up.

Based in Zelenograd, a technology-oriented city just outside Moscow, Mikron Group is the largest manufacturer and exporter of microelectronics in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

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