Equity Bank’s Thin SIM technology is expected to hit the market and bring major change to the mobile banking industry.The investigation, ignited by Safaricom competitors reached a turning point as Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) dismissed the objections claiming the technology jeopardizes the privacy of account holders’ banking information. CA’s board chairman, Ben Gituku, revealed to the Standard Digital why the complaints were initially considered, then dispelled.
“The two regulators have held discussions with Safaricom, Fineserve and Taisys on the matter as well as other market players and global watchdog GSMA regarding these concerns,” Gituku said in an interview with the Standard Digital.
“We have established that the overlay SIM card technology complies with minimum mandatory standards in manufacturing and no major complaints regarding the interception of communication on the main-SIM have been reported so far.”
However, the parliamentary committee on Energy and Communications has ordered ‘a technical audit’ on the security features and have requested a delay in commercial distribution until completion.
Interface concerns aside, Equity Bank will set the stage for a dramatic price war in the mobile money services market. The ultra thin SIM cards will be given out for free. Once received, the 0.1mm-thick film is layered on top of a subscriber’s original SIM card, effectively turning the device into a dual-SIM phone. As a dual SIM phone, the phone is capable of accessing two network service providers. The technology knows and supports all relevant GSMA/ 3GPP/ ETSI standards, making it compatible with all standard devices from the older feature forms to the newest telecommunications technology. Users can easily select which card to use directly from the SIM Tool Kit menu, or calling a specific short code to make a selection. In addition, the thin SIM allows for multiple numbers on one device with automatic or manual selection of which number to use.
Customers will find the dual action features beneficial because it eliminates the need to switch providers as well as the need to purchase pricier smart phones.
Perhaps Equity Bank’s most innovative strategy is the removal of money transfer fees. The rivals at Safaricom charge its customers between Ksh1 and Ksh110 to send cash via M-Pesa. In addition, Equity Bank has also created a cap on withdrawing fees. With M-Pesa, a withdraw can cost the customer anywhere between Ksh10 to Ksh330. Equity Bank has ensured that subscribers will never pay more than Ksh25 to remove money from their accounts.
Peter Wanyonyi, a telecoms analyst, explained to the Standard Digital how Thin SIM will not only greatly benefit Equity Bank, but also mobile money consumers in Kenya.
“Equitel is bringing in much-needed competition given its massive customer base. That sending money will be free on Equitel is the real game-changer here, and it will have repercussions not just in the mobile money market, but also on the ATM scene: withdrawing money from an ATM is quite expensive in Kenya,” Wanyonyi said in an interview with the Standard Digital.
“This is good for the market, good for the consumer, and therefore good for the economy.”