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Kenya: CA allows Equity Bank’s thin SIM tech

By , Editor, ITWeb Africa
Kenya , 22 Sep 2014

Kenya: CA allows Equity Bank’s thin SIM tech

Ultra-thin SIM card technology is finally expected to make its debut in Kenya.

This is after the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) on Monday tacitly gave Equity Bank the green light to use the technology.

Equity Bank’s 0.1mm thin SIM cards, which are made by Taiwanese headquartered firm Taisys, can be stuck onto existing SIM cards to give handset users access to more than one network.

The bank planned rolling out the technology after it won a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence in April this year. However, Kenya’s biggest mobile network Safaricom opposed Equity’s planned use of the ultra-thin SIM cards on grounds of security concerns.

But the CA on Monday dismissed Safaricom’s opposition to the technology.

“There is no sufficient evidence to block in the Kenyan market the entry of the thin SIM,” the CA tweeted, quoting its chairman Ngene Gituku.

“Save for the inherent vulnerabilities of all SIM cards, there are no specific and confirmed vulnerabilities arising from use of thin SIM,” said the CA on Twitter.

Tests conducted on the thin SIM technology illustrated that it complies with necessary standards, noted the CA.

Moreover, the CA said there are no major complaints regarding the interception of traffic on the primary SIM cards when ultra-thin SIM cards are used.

The CA said it intends allowing the use of the thin SIM tech under “strict observation for a period of one year,” and that it plans hiring an international firm “to conduct a security audit on all SIM cards, and in particular the use of the thin SIM.”

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

Also, the CA said operators intending to use the thin SIM for mobile money transfer must obtain authorisation from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK).

Equity’s SIM card play a threat to Safaricom

Safaricom’s move to oppose the thin SIM technology has been viewed in Kenya as an attempt to stall competition to its mobile money offering M-Pesa.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa is Kenya’s dominant mobile money system with over 19 million users. Meanwhile, Equity is the largest bank in East Africa with almost 9 million bank accounts.

Equity’s thin SIM tech could boost its number of bank account users while eating into Safaricom’s mobile money market share.

“I think it is one technology that is going to be quite disruptive in the mobile money market,” Danson Njue, an East African analyst for Ovum, told ITWeb Africa.

“We expect Equity to be launching very soon.

“They have hinted that their (mobile money) service is going to be cheaper,” added Njue.

Equity has already had an effect on Kenya’s mobile money market after Safaricom slashed its M-Pesa transfer costs last month.

There are 25.1 million mobile money users in Kenya, according to the CA.

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