New SIM card faces roadblock

New SIM card faces roadblock

Summary: Despite its potential, SIM Release 7 faces hurdles that could possibly delay its market entry by at least another year, says analyst.

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SIM Release 7 will allow handset makers to add more innovative features onto their products, but its entry-to-market will be determined by how fast handset makers warm up to the new standard.

Release 7--or Standard 7--is the latest iteration of the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card that is commonly found in cellular phones. The new standard is being reviewed by the Third-Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and has been scheduled for approval by mid-2007.

With the incorporation of new technologies that offer better security and improved data access--such as near field communications (NFC) and High Speed OFDM Packet Access (HSOPA)--industry observers have named Release 7 as one of the most significant updates to the SIM standard.

Anoop Ubhey, smart cards global program director at Frost & Sullivan, said the SIM card will continue to have a bright future as mobile operators look to boost their average revenue per user (ARPU) but cautioned that it may take a while for handset makers to market phones compliant with the new release.

"The time to market for such devices would be another 12 to 15 months approximately," Ubhey told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview. He added that the lack of compatible handsets in the market could delay the commercial launch of the new SIM cards.

"There would be some more [waiting] to see how well the industry would adopt this new technology," the analyst conceded.

Despite the possibility of slow market entry, Ubhey said, he remains enthusiastic about Release 7's potential to alter the mobile landscape.

"It would be a big break to the current commoditization of the SIM market that we see today," said Ubhey, citing the new SIM card's convergence with contactless technologies as one important driver for growth.

He said that with the launch of the new standard, the SIM card would also evolve beyond its traditional role as a mere token.

"Business applications for enterprises, mobile TV, mobile games and multimedia data storage would be made available through this new evolved role of the SIM card," explained Ubhey.

When asked how the new standard would affect mobile network operators (MNO) and handset makers, Ubhey said that Release 7's architecture will provide operators and vendors with a foundation for adding innovative features to their products.

He noted that mobile network operators (MNO), for example, would be able to give consumers an improved Internet browsing experience on mobiles as well as better service with real-time applications such as Voice of IP (VoIP). They could also rollout services to corporate applications requiring cryptographic capabilities for their clients, he added.

Topics: Hardware, Mobility, Networking, Software Development

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