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MWC: Embedded SIM technology on the cards

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A project designed to develop a worldwide standard for embedded SIM card technology is well under way. The standard aims to remove SIM cards from devices such as cellphones, effectively embedding the SIM on the device. This technology could change traditional business models in that customers will be able to switch between networks using the same SIM.

Efforts to set an industry standard for embedded SIM technology have moved forward with the first results of a dedicated task force due to submit its findings to ETSI, the telecoms standards body, later this month. The GSMA-backed task force included input from a number of international operators.

The project aims to develop a worldwide standard that will allow the remote management of SIMs, effectively removing the need for a physical card and allowing SIMs to be embedded into many different types of devices. Moreover, the technology could potentially trigger a major shift in the traditional operator business model as it will allow customers to switch between different networks using the same SIM.

Devices featuring the new SIM activation capability are expected to appear in 2012. In the case of devices that use traditional SIMs (such as handsets), the GSMA said that embedded SIMs will be initially used in tandem with a physical card and would remain as a ‚physical entity.‚ However, they will also be embedded in devices where they cannot be removed, making them suited to machine-to-machine (M2M) services and for connected consumer electronic devices such as cameras and music players.

‚By creating a standardised embedded SIM, we will drive global momentum for new, innovative and cost-effective connected devices that will enhance everyday lives,‚ said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair. ‚This is important because industry fragmentation can greatly hinder the advancement of mobile technology to the detriment of our industry and users all over the world.‚

The operator-led embedded SIM initiative is progressing amid rumours of similar developments elsewhere in the industry. Unconfirmed reports late last year suggested Apple was working on new iPhone software that would allows users to define their own network settings and freely switch between networks, effectively removing the operator from the value chain. This news prompted a fierce response from the mobile operator community, which reportedly threatened to suspend iPhone subsidies if Apple went through with its plans, forcing the iPhone-maker to re-consider.

– Story courtesy of Mobile World Congress Show Daily

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