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Communications Authority of Kenya Approves Equity Bank’s ultra-thin SIM Card

by Felix Omondi

Communications Authority of Kenya Approves Equity Bank’s ultra-thin SIM Card

Communications Authority of Kenya Approves Equity Bank’s ultra-thin SIM CardOn Monday this week, the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) gave the green light for Equity Bank to commence with rolling out its thin SIM card technology. The ultra-thin SIM card is about 0.1mm thick, manufactured by the Taiwanese-based Taisys.

The thin SIM can be fitted over the existing SIM card and enables the handset to access more than one network. Equity bank had planned to roll out this technology as soon as it won the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) licence back in April. This move was strongly challenged by Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest mobile telecom company, citing security concerns of the ultra-thin SIM card.

The CA dismissed the insecurity claims by Safaricom, the Chairman, Ngene Gituku was quoted on the CA’s tweeter handle saying, “There is no sufficient evidence to block in the Kenyan market the entry of the thin SIM. Save for the inherent vulnerabilities of all SIM cards, there are no specific and confirmed vulnerabilities arising from use of thin SIM.”

Related: Safaricom receives GSMA backing in its petition against thin SIM technology.

CA went further to conduct tests and concluded that the thin SIM technology complies to the set industry standards. Additionally, CA cited that there are no major complaints in regards to the interception of traffic to the primary SIM cards when the ultra-thins SIM Card is in place.

The CA allowed the use of the thin SIM technology under, “strict observation for a period of one year”, and it will hire an international firm in order “to conduct a security audit on all SIM cards, and in particular the use of the thin SIM.”

The CA on Monday noted, “in case of any vulnerability, operations of thin SIM in Kenyan market to cease forthwith pending the final recommendations of (a) security report.”

CA also said that any other operators who intend to roll out the thin SIM for their mobile money transfer service must get their authorization from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).

There are other parties who view Safaricom’s move to oppose the introduction of the thin SIM technology in the Kenyan market as a means of stalling competition for its mobile money transfer service M-Pesa.

Currently, M-Pesa is the most dominant mobile money transfer services with more than 19 million users. On the other hand, Equity is the biggest bank in the whole East African region with about 9 million bank accounts. By Equity adopting the thins SIM technology, it stands to boost its bank account users and give Safaricom’s M-Pesa a fearsome competition in the money transfer services.

As cited by ITWeb Africa, Danson Njue, an East African analyst for Ovum, said, “I think it is one technology that is going to be quite disruptive in the mobile money market. We expect Equity to be launching very soon. They have hinted that their (mobile money) service is going to be cheaper.”

So far, the move by Equity can be said to have had a significant effect on the Kenyan mobile money market. As can be seen by Safaricom already reacting by slashing the costs of its M-Pesa transfer services.

According to CA, there are about 25.1 million mobile money users in Kenya.

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