Business Unusual

There are over 7 billion SIM cards now

The humble sim card that powers, among other things, your phone is itself a computer that is more powerful than the guidance computer than allowed man to walk on the moon.

The original smart cards date back to the early 70s, but sim cards were created in the 90s as mobile phones switched from analog to digital.

This piece will explain what they do and why they are likely to be replaced.

The Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) is needed to connect and authenticate a mobile user on a network. The basic process is that the phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) stored on the phone can be matched with International Mobile Subscriber Identification (IMSI) which is stored on the sim.

Once the verification is completed using a special key kept on the sim and by the network that issued it, you can access the network and be billed for the use of the network.

That has basically been the case for the last 20 years, but a move by phone manufactures and, increasingly, networks are seeing the advantage of an eSim which effectively makes the sim a part of the phone, saving space for a slot and sparing you the need to fiddle with fitting the little sim cards in your phone.

The greatest advantage is that you will no longer need a sim to use your phone. You could switch networks from your phone almost instantly.

They are already in use in some devices like some iPads in the US and many car makers are required to build the emergency call feature into a non-removable sim in their cars which automatically alerts the emergency services of your location in the event of an accident.

As more devices become internet enabled the option to have them fitted with a permanent sim allows them to be smaller, more watertight and robust. It also prevents tampering.

The greatest advantage is that you will no longer need to physically get a sim to use it. You could switch networks from your phone; and do so almost instantly.

Some phones allow for a dual sim to make the most of the best packages on offer. One company, Simless, is not only looking to get rid of the sim; their version would allow you to have multiple sims on your device optimised for the use, or the location, you access the network.

The trials of the new devices have been underway in Hong Kong since the end of 2015. It is likely that the adoption will take some time as the universal standards will need to be set first to allow all networks to switch to supporting it and to ensure that users' and networks' security can be maintained.

It would lead to more competition - because switching would be easier - but it would also allow for more virtual networks to be created with specialist services or content. It may be the catalyst to change the way the internet works via mobile networks altogether.

Simless would allow you to have multiple sims on your device optimised for your location and access to the network.

Here is a possible scenario...

A bank wants to attract customers to use its services, but they are similar to most other banks, so they create a virtual network offering their clients free data when banking or free calls to connect with their banker. This could have them reduce the number of branches and staff at the branches while being able to service clients in areas they formerly did not operate.

They could then add discounted goods and even deals on accessing music and video content at a competitive rate - all while maintaining their full banking fees and getting more people to join.

Likewise; a media company could offer data deals to access their TV shows or music or news offerings at low or free data costs in exchange for subscriptions to their services. Adding new offerings like buying products advertised on shows from their handset via their mobile accounts or getting discounts on services like home food delivery to keep you in front of your TV.

Networks themselves could add other services like banking or entertainment to ensure you don’t switch networks while still maintaining their profit margins.

Given the benefit for consumers and the potential opportunities for business it is only a question of time before sims as they exist now become history.

It is another step in evolving what is arguably the world's largest marketplace, the mobile internet.

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