The use of thin SIM technology has been approved in Kenya paving way for new Mobile Virtual Networks Operators (MVNOs) to use them for new services among them mobile money transfer.
While speaking at a press conference, the Communications Authority chairman Mr. Ngene Gituku said there is no sufficient evidence to block the Kenyan market the entry of the thin SIM.
“The intention of the Authority to license these services is to encourage innovation in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector that will spur competition from various market segments, particularly involving local investors,” he said.
“The expected competition and innovations by the Mobile Virtual Network Operators will provide consumers with varied services and value for their money while at the same time catalyzing economic development in the country,” he added.
The Authority will allow the use of thin SIM technology under strict observation for a period of one year. During this period, only Taisys’SIMoME thin SIM will operate in the Kenyan market but if any vulnerability is discovered from the use of Taisys thin SIM card, then operations of the SIM card in the Kenyan market will cease forthwith pending the final recommendations from the security report
The ruling by the three bodies will now put the matter which had pitted two Kenyan corporate giants Safaricom and Equity against each other to rest. Equity Bank through its subsidiary Finserve Africa Limited, had been issued with an Application Service Provider license and had expressed its intention to carry out the mobile payment services on its platform, using the latest technology of SIM card, commonly known as thin SIM or overlay SIM.
The move was however challenged by one Mobile Network Operator, Safaricom, on account that the dual use of the overlay SIM alongside any other on GSM handsets may cause interruption and interception of communication.
The operator further claim the dual use of overlay SIM may introduce vulnerabilities in the network as well as infringing on intellectual property rights.
This complaint was considered by the Authority in coordination with the Central Bank of Kenya, the regulator of mobile money transfer services. The two regulators engaged both Safaricom Limited and Finserve Kenya Limited for separate hearings on the matter and also sought representations from TaisysSIMoME®, who is the manufacturer of the thin SIM in question.
“Opinion on the use of overlay SIM was also sought from GSMA, the association of GSM service providers and manufacturers of various products used in the provision of GSM services. The Authority also benchmarked with various standards organizations and regulators, who supported the intended use of the technology in Kenya,” he added.
After gathering information on the subject, the two regulators held a stakeholder conference that included participation from Safaricom Limited, Finserve Kenya Limited, Airtel Kenya Limited Orange, Telkom Kenya Limited and Essar Telcom Limited. Others who participated at the forum were the two other MVNOs, GSMA and Taisys among others, at CA Center.
It was then established that the thin SIM complies with all minimum mandatory international standards pertaining to the manufacturing of the thin SIM, no major complaints and particularly on interception of traffic of the primary SIM card has been reported so far and Tests conducted onTaisys thin SIM by China National Computer Quality Supervising Test Center as well as the Bank Card Test Center of China show this particular thin SIM complies with applicable ISO and ETSI standards.
Based on the opinion of GSMA, save for the inherent vulnerabilities of all SIM cards, there are no specific and confirmed vulnerabilities arising from the use of the thin SIM.
Operators intending to use the thin SIM for mobile money transfer must obtain authorization from the Central Bank of Kenya