"Never settle for less than your dreams.
Somewhere, sometime, someday, somehow, you'll find them

- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

Get more Insight, Inspiration and Self Discovery at The Walkabout.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enhancing Mobile Subscriber Choice Through Dual SIM, Dual Number SIM and Thin SIM

Back in the day, many handsets were locked to a particular network. I remember my sister bought a Motorola T100 that was locked to the Safaricom network. In 2003, my college friend Crispus had a Sagem phone which was configured to only use a Kencell SIM.

Basically, there was no choice. All phones were feature phones, and phones not tied to a particular network (either Safaricom or Kencell) were prohibitively expensive. The only way to enjoy the benefits of access to either network was having two phones.

With time, some people started unlocking these phones. Dubbed "flashing," this was akin to the jail-breaking that many an iPhone underwent shortly after launch in 2007 when it was exclusive to the AT&T network in USA.

Despite unlocking these phones, the ideal, albeit elusive solution was accessing two networks simultaneously on one handset.

Dual SIM adapters

A dual SIM adapter makes it possible to have two micro-SIM size lines in a mini-SIM slot of a phone. Both SIMs are now usable on a single phone, even though only one SIM will be live at any given time.
What a dual-SIM adapter obviates is the inconvenience of removing and reinserting a particular SIM to use its associated network.

It should be noted that almost almost feature phones use a mini-SIM. The makers of a dual-SIM adapter provided a mini-SIM size holder that held two micro-SIMs from two providers. Using a circuit, the two were linked for use in one phone.

Modern SIM adapters such as SIMORE use advanced technologies to achieve a dual SIM module (see photo above).

Dual SIM Phones

Dual SIM handsets are a great enhancement to subscriber choice. Be it a feature phone or smartphone, a dual SIM phone enables simultaneous access to two mobile networks at any given time. Some of them even have a smart feature that allows receiving calls on line 2 while line 1 is on use.

Each of the two lines has voice, texting and data access ability, which means that if you prefer better voice rates on one network which may not have fast mobile broadband, you can then use SIM 1 for voice and SIM 2 for fast 3G or 4G, all on the same phone.

Nokia (above) and Samsung (below) are some of the many phone makers who have a wide range of dual SIM handsets worldwide.

Thin SIM

This is the SIM technology that Equity bank's Finserve Africa (a wholly owned subsidiary of Kenya's Equity Bank) plans to use upon rollout of the Equitel mobile network.

The Thin-SIM, also known as Slim-SIM or Skin-SIM is a very thin SIM that has a printed circuit with contacts on both sides. It is then stuck onto an existing SIM, be it mini or micro SIM.
Upon inserting the new compound SIM into a phone, you get dual SIM functionality.

Some of the makers of this SIM are Taisys and Bibitel.

Locally, this SIM technology has elicited intense opposition from Safaricom, which alleges that the Thin-SIM presents security vulnerabilities that would negatively affect the primary SIM. This matter has attracted regulatory attention from both Communications Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya. n addition, a parliamentary committee on communications has so far received presentations from all the aforementioned parties regarding the same.

An announcement is yet to be made if Equitel can go ahead and launch mobile banking and telecommunications services using Thin-SIM.

Dual Number SIM

Dual nuamber SIM is yet another solution that presents two phone numbers in a single SIM. In most cases, this would be from the same provider. The 1 SIM, 2 numbers solution is ideal in situations where a customer has two numbers - one for business and one for social communication - and wouldn't want to carry two phones with him or her all the time.

In Pakistan, Warid Telecom and Telenor do offer the dual number SIMs.

* * *

The above choice enhancements are solutions that mobile phone operators in competitive markets should explore in a bid to gain subscribers.

In Kenya for example, Thin-SIM is a very interesting approach that other operators viz: Airtel Kenya and Orange Kenya should put to use should Equitel get the go-ahead to roll out using Thin-SIM.
Dual SIM handsets and dual SIM adapters too, should be used in cases where there is an already established operator. A market entrant using any of these technologies then gives subscribers a chance to test-drive both networks at the same time, without abandoning the first-mover network.