GSMA has grouped a task force of operators and SIM vendors in order to discuss about the delivery of a frame work for embedded SIM specificatons.
Market requirements analysis will complete by January 2011.
What is an embedded SIM? Embedded means that the SIM won’t be anymore a piece detachable from the device.
What does a SIM contain not having already a counterpart in today’s terminals?
Please do not name the SIM applets services nobody use or the 500 contacts. Well, the SIM card manages your network authentication. There’s an identity subscriber code exchanged with the network (and validated) during the registration phase (or location updates). That’s it.
If you move it into phones, this simply means that in order to switch between your several accounts (numbers or operators), you should buy several devices.
It’s certainly true that if you want to manage more numbers within a single operator, you can already today subscribe (paying of course) to some mechanism of double numbers on the same card etc…
Certainly today you can switch yourself, over the same terminal platform, among operators and numbers, with few gestures.
Let’s look now into some of the several implications deriving from embedding SIMs in terminals:
1) It won’t be you to manually mix up and swap operators over the same terminal
2) If you want to purchase a new generation phone and use it with your number you must throw your old sim (you paid for) in the waste
3) New generation smartphones that millions of people bought (and are still buying) will immediately be obsolete
4) The coupling between you (your identity) and the mobile you are using will be incredibly easy to trace by an operator, without the need to track and maintain a database associating IMSI and IMEI. This will ease ad hoc marketing on a “per terminal”and a “per capabilities” base.
5) Yet another constraint to force you using the cloud
6) An extra item that could break making the phone useless
7) You can decide to lock the device on a user base. Remeber the SIM locking? Vendors could lock you on using a device only with them. Now, depending on who will activate the embedded SIM, mobile OEMs can decide the rules of the game (i.e. you can reuse this mobile only 3 times, you can’t share it..etc…)
8) They could decide that if you don’t recharge your credit un a certain period, your embedded SIM, thus your mobile, will deactivate (not just your SIM) irreversibly (so go buying a new one).
9) All phone capabilites inside a car will become obsolete, because they are based on the need of using a SIM card.
10) If you want to borrow your phone to someone who urgently need to call and has run out of battery on his phone , then you’ll need to be ready to pay for him.
And several others. Of course these are just hypotehis, and maybe this will just make the piece of metal and plastic disappear, maintaining the freedom and flexibility of current SIM cards.
What is certain is that it won’t be you to be free of manually doing this, but you’ll need a remote operator, doing this over the air. And to me that’s a clear freedom restriction, and a step backward, at least in this sense.
Of course they will tell you about the huge improvements (security, RFC, banking etc..) but never forget that when you must leave something to get (even lot of) something else, it’s not real progress, it’s compromising.