back to article The future of the SIM hangs by a single wire

SIM manufacturers still have some of the largest stands here at Mobile World Congress, but not as big as last year and with a lot less to show on them. Now the industry is betting that proximity payments will be their future, and if they're wrong there'll be a lot of empty space here in Barcelona come 2009. The GSM SIM chip …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Mobile operators are keeping the SIM alive

    SIM locks and network locks are controls which they like.

    Without a SIM we may move into a market where your phone has to be programmed with a phone number by the network, we don't want that.

  2. EmperorFromage
    Gates Horns


    DVB-H the "other" herpes at MWC - will require new SIM features. ( Similar to a satellite TV conditional access SIM ) ... so there should be plenty of fodder for the SIM marketing droids in pushing DVB-H

  3. Curtis W. Rendon

    as a consumer

    I'm not picking up on why I would ever bother to buy a SIM card.

    It comes with the phone, it makes the phone work... so unless I'm CIA or Al'Queda, why would I need another?

  4. Greg Smith

    From a security point of view

    If NFC is going to happen...

    NFC would be safer on GSM SIM (or 3G USIM) using C4 and C8 given the higher degree of electronic counter-measures protecting U/SIM where little exist on handsets. Moreover, there is more chance of increase of cell phone theft if NFC incorporated into handset.

  5. JohnG

    @Curtis W. Rendon "...why I would ever bother to buy a SIM card"

    To change network if you decide that the tariff of your current network operator is no longer the best for you. You might also want to be able to change to a local operator's network when abroad instead of paying roaming charges.

    If there is a return to the association of the phone's electronic serial number to a given network (like in the days of analogue cellphones), do you think your operator will help you change networks at will?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Curtis W. Rendon

    You don't but the networks do...

    For reasons better known to them, each time I have upgraded, they have sent me a new SIM to go with the phone. Each time I have though "ooooh, I wonder if this SIM has enough space to backup my contact list" and each time I've found it's exactly the same type of SIM as the last one.

    I can take my current SIM out of my N95, and chuck it into the earliest GSM phone I have laying about, something I haven't used since last century, and it'll work.

    Such is the level of progress... i.e. Bugger all!

    As for NFC, Nokia have been nosing about this (excuse the pun) field for quite a while. I have replacement shells for 5140s that add NFC, and I might have possibly developed some software which used it a couple of years ago... *cough* NDA... *cough*

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ as a consumer

    Umm - because when you travel outside your provider's service area it can be cheaper to pick up a pre-pay SIM from another operator for the duration of your visit than to pay international roaming charges for local calls.

    This is something I've done on a number of occassions when working in Australia or Europe.

    A more valid question for me is - as a consumer why would I ever want to buy a phone without a SIM, and be locked to a service provider, phone number and restricted range of phones.

  8. Name Given

    SIM Does what it does

    The SIM does what it does, from a consumer point of view, you plug it in and go, in modern times it no longer stores your contacts the way you need, not a huge step but a step that needs to be taken..

    Good in parts but not in others.

  9. Danny Thompson

    Anyone ....

    ... who can recall the days before GSM and SIM will not want a return to those times. Be thankful for what you have got these days.

    As a consumer the SIM is not relevant beyond the fact that I can move my number across different handsets - providing they are not SP locked. That is a very good thing.

    As a consumer I mistrust NFC and almost all forms of personal electronic cash - including the ubiquitous credit and debit cards with their ubersafe [not] PINs. But we exist in the 21st century or thereabouts and I suppose I have to accept the latter. Not quite ready yet to accept NFC until it is nailed down as to what it is going to be.

    Given the lifelong security aspects of the SIM and USIM I am more of a mind to trust these than manufacturers handsets, if I must trust any such thing at all. So lets see what the SIM chaps can do and no more nonsense about doing this in the handset entirely.

  10. Greg Smith

    @ general discussion

    NFC is the indulgence of those looking to make micro-payments more dynamic than using eg Oyster Card or buying can of coke from a vending machine - big deal. The difference between Oyster Card and a mobile 'phone is that the latter is larger, more cumbersome and likely to be a pain if the battery runs down (thus keep re-charged) before getting to the ticket barrier. Oyster Card doesn't suffer from these latter problem. Just keeping the Oyster card topped up is the goal.

    NFC micro payments may be open to fraud, by getting an NFC mobile user to buy a can of coke from a rigged vending machine. The first payment doesn't produce a can of coke, but decrements value from credit value, user is unaware value gone, thinks machine is faulty and tries a second time, this time the can of coke is dispensed and a second value is decremented. This scenario is not new, it was being talked about back in 2001 but in relation to prepaid SIMs (thus no billing statement to view showing user as been ripped off) using GSM to send communications to vending machines.

    It is difficult to see any real benefit of this NFC technology, other than network operators vying with handset manufacturers vying with SIM Card manufacturers for market dominance.

  11. Boring Bob

    Bad logic

    "I can take my current SIM out of my N95, and chuck it into the earliest GSM phone I have laying about, something I haven't used since last century, and it'll work.

    Such is the level of progress... i.e. Bugger all!"

    The above test does not prove "Bugger all" progress has been made, all it does is prove that current SIM cards are backwardly compatible with old telephones.

    If you want to see what progress has been made with SIM cards you should take your first SIM card and put it into your new telephone. SIM cards typically now include Java engines that allow operates to add extra proprietary features and applications to GSM telephones. You will find that a number of the applications you believe came with your telephone actually came with the new SIM card.

    Anyone who says that the SIM card is simply a subscriber module does not know what they are talking about. The SIM card is the only piece of hardware in a telephone an operator has complete control of and is one of the main ways it can differentiate itself from other operators

  12. pctechxp

    @AC - new card with new phone

    I'd say because they tweak the embedded software to add new menus, shortcuts for services such as preferred DQ providers etc

  13. Greg Smith

    @ Boring Bob

    Entirely agree with you Bob.

    If anyone wants to know about SIM Cards look at GSM 11,13 API Java Card; 11.14 STK and JSR Standards etc.

    For backward compatibility for SIM/mobile telephone start with standards: GSM 09.90 & 09.91

    SIM Cards are the smallest of all components in GSM, yet are one of the powerful - without SIM, basically no user voice or content....

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @BoringBob: "take your first SIM card and put it into your new telephone"

    "a number of the applications you believe came with your telephone actually came with the new SIM card."


    I recently acquired a Nokia E65 as an "upgrade" to my Nokia 6600. I tried the 6600 SIM (which I think came originally from a NK6310) in the E65, and as far as I can recollect from brief testing, nothing much changed vs what I now see with the offical SIM supplied with the E65. (I could go back and check, I still have the old SIM, but I cba).

    In fact I think I first briefly tried the E65 with a PAYG SIM which was/is a true antique in GSM terms.

    (I went round this route because the I wanted to check the E65 worked but keep the 6600 as my live phone or another couple of months, till Traffic-i ran out).

    Are the alleged "missing" features stuff that normal real people actually use?

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