Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dean Bubley: The Tyranny of the SIM Card

Dean Bubley posts at his Disruptive Wireless blog about what he cals the "Tyranny of the SIM Card." Bubley states he is "fast being converted to the idea that the SIM is a relic of the 1990s, and deserves to play little (if any) role in the future of mobile telephony, except for the most basic prepay low-ARPU mobile-only unconverged services."

He thinks there are some benefits to the SIM, but believes "he problems occur when you start trying to "converge" products and services from multiple sources." He states:

The SIM is essentially "a service provider on a chip". Which is fine for authenticating you against things that are standalone services, like basic mobile voice on a basic phone. But much less good in instances where there are multiple parties involved in security - your IT department, your broadband provider, your digital TV supplier, or indeed you yourself.

I'm never going to have a SIM in my TV set. Or a SIM in printer, or my home broadband WiFi router. They're mine, they're not subsidised, and I don't want them "registering" with a service provider before I can use them. Similarly, I don't want a SIM embedded in a laptop, as it turns it from being a computing "product" into "part of a 3rd-party service". Sure, if I use a cellular broadband data card, I might use one, so long as I don't have to have branded & clunky operator-specific software cluttering up my device UI.
Bubley then goes on to write about his experience switching from a 2G to 3G handset and having to get a new 3G SIM card as well. Not very positive as he writes:
I now have to have the new one's IMSI registered. There will, apparently, be an indeterminate time between my old 2G one ceasing to work and the new 3G one being activated. Between 2 and 24 hours. Useful, eh? So business contacts, friends etc go to voicemail if I'm lucky, or get lost in the ether in the intervening period. What idiot thought that system up?

I mean, when I part-exchanged my car earlier this year, my dealer didn't have to tell me to re-register the new key for 6 hours with the DVLA (UK car & driver licensing authority)? I gave him the old key & car, and drove off with the new one. When I download a new version of the Skype software, it doesn't need a lengthy re-registration period. Replacement credit cards work instantly, perhaps sometimes with a phone call to confirm receipt.