Imagine if you were able to access your mobile connection simply by typing your user name and password on any device. If you loose your phone, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing data as well, and you’d never have to go to the operator’s shop for a new SIM.
And it’s not just users who stand to benefit. Mobile networks are reaching remote geographies; user loyalty with an operator is as short as a week; and revenue earned per month from each user is less than Rs 100. In these circumstances, operators find it expensive to provision a SIM card for every connection.
Apple was rumored to have been working with SIM vendor Gemalto to develop a wirelessly upgradable soft SIM for its devices which wouldn’t need a physical card at all.
GSMA too has established a working group of major operators to create specifications for a soft SIM.
Similar to most new technologies that are set to change an established norm, virtual SIMs face some resistance in the form of regulations, but if the case is compelling, the technology will surely make a way for itself.
Comviva Technologies, an Indian value added services company, had launched Virtual SIM technology in 2009 that allowed users to access up to six connections using one SIM card. Currently, Virtual SIM is deployed by MTN Cameroon and MTN Ghana, and is said to have generated a great deal of customer interest and uptake in these markets.
Arun Tanksali, head of mobile lifestyle and device solutions business at Comviva, says, “Virtual SIM solution enables operators to provide subscribers with an alternative line — using a single SIM and a single handset. With Virtual SIM, subscribers gain fast, convenient and cost-effective access to a second line, enabling them to separate mobile phone usage depending on their needs.”
Back in 2009, there were no dual SIM devices and Comviva’s solution was focused at developing the possibility of using multiple connections on one device, but the Virtual SIM design was such that five connections to each Virtual SIM would be accessible using a password login system and wouldn’t need individual physical cards to function.
While Comviva’s solution does not eliminate the need of a physical SIM altogether, it does reduce it as people who opt for multiple connections can have them without the need for multiple SIM cards.
Tanksali further said about Virtual SIM that “The service can be launched rapidly, without the need for additional investment, enabling operators to improve overall customer profitability. Operators are also able to target the Base of Pyramid (BoP) segment affordably, providing many people with their first unique mobile identity, and often, their first experience of mobile communications.”