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Kenya’s Equity Bank launches paper-thin SIM card tech

Kenya , 29 May 2014

Kenya’s Equity Bank launches paper-thin SIM card tech

Kenya’s Equity Bank plans introducing paper-thin SIM cards to help its customers access the bank’s mobile money service without needing to use dual-SIM phones.

Equity’s chief executive, James Mwangi, has said the bank’s SIM cards will consist of 0.1 millimeter thick film that can be layered on an active side of customers’ original SIM cards, without affecting the customers’ original service providers’ network reception.

This means Equity customers will not need to migrate to the bank’s mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by getting new SIM cards or be forced to purchase dual SIM phones. Equity Bank won an MVNO licence in April this year.

“Users who want to stick with their current mobile lines and at the same time enjoy Equity’s banking solution will be able to do so with our slim card,” Mwangi told Kenya’s Business Daily.

“The SIM skin gets married to the existing card and turns your phone into a dual SIM although it has only one slot. If somebody calls you on your Equity line, you can pick it and if they call your other network, you do the same.” Mwangi added.

The bank says the SIM cards will be available for free; a strategic move that analysts say could accelerate its penetration into the market.

Speaking to ITWeb Africa, Noah Mutai, an IT research lecturer and telecommunications analyst at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), said that Equity bank’s move is set to unsettle both the telecoms and mobile money industry in the country.

“The Kenyan market can sometimes prove very tough for a new entrant in any sector, and the telecommunications and mobile money arena is not any different,” Mutai told ITWeb Africa.

“Kenyans tend to stick to their original service providers, unless the new entrant brings in indomitable competition and provides a value for their money. With Equity Bank opting for the relatively new SIM card technology for their MVNO service, big operators are set to fill the pinch as customers get excited in trying out this new technology,” Mutai added.

“For now, its not a matter of whether Equity will attract new customers or not-as the new SIM card technology is already exciting enough to attract them-but it is a matter of whether they can be able to keep them hooked on their service long enough before other mobile money service providers come knocking,” said Mutai.

“I am sure giants in the mobile services sector are already brainstorming on how to counter the effect that Equity Bank’s service will have on their business, and I can confidently say we are going to witness price wars and more value added services, which will work to the customer’s advantage either way,” Mutai said in conclusion.

Meanwhile, the mobile phone technology that Equity Bank is using is seemingly similar to Taisy’s Technologies paper-thin SIM cards.

Last year, ITWeb Africa reported that Taisy’s had opened a South African office to sell its film-like SIM cards (pictured above) to the African market.

It is unclear whether Equity Bank is using this technology though.

Equity Bank claims to be the largest bank in East Africa with a customer base of over 8.7 million bank accounts and with over 50% of all bank accounts in Kenya.

Equity also has presence in Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania.

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