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[July 27, 2014]
Equity Bank can launch mobile cash on normal SIM cards, says Wangusi [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The telecommunications sector regulator has said Equity Bank is free to launch its mobile phone banking and cash transfer service ahead of the resolution of a petition filed by Safaricom.
But Equity cannot use the ultra-thin SIM cards which are secured on top of ordinary SIMs until a ruling on the matters raised by Safaricom is made, the Communications Authority of Kenya director-general Francis Wangusi has said.
Safaricom has filed a petition claiming that Equity's phone-based banking and cash transfer service, which is intended to ride on a special SIM card that is placed on top of conventional SIMs, would pose a security threat to mobile subscribers.
"The delay in making a ruling on the matter cannot bar Equity from rolling out its services because they can still start with conventional SIM cards and later introduce the thin SIM, depending on the ruling we will come up with," said Mr Wangusi in an interview.
The communications regulator says it is awaiting expert responses from the GSMA (Global Systems for Mobile phone Applications) and a Korean thin SIM card manufacturer before making a ruling on Safaricom's petition.
Safaricom, the provider of the M-Pesa mobile phone payments service, challenged Equity's intention to use the thin SIM cards, saying they would expose subscribers to financial fraud and intercepted communication.
"We expect to get responses from the GSMA this week. However, as we speak we have not received any communication from them," said Mr Wangusi. The SIM card in contention is paper-thin and embedded with a chip. Users overlay it on their primary SIM card, regardless of the network, and can subsequently receive services from two mobile service providers simultaneously.
Ultra slim SIM cards Mr Wangusi said that other than the experts' advice, the Authority will also have to carry out research to get the best global practices on where the technology has worked or is being used. The regulator wants to establish whether use of the ultra slim phone cards, which ride on mobile phone subscribers' primary SIM cards, poses potential security threats.
"We have no issue with any of the MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators). In fact, we have always welcomed the competition. The issue we raised related to the so-called thin SIM where we are seeking guidance from the Communications Authority and GSM on its specific impact on Kenyan customers," the Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore told Business Daily on Friday.
Equity Bank was in April granted an MVNO licence alongside Mobile Pay Ltd and Zioncell. Equity plans to use the licence to roll out mobile banking services jointly with Airtel.
Equity had initially said that it was to launch its services in July and is currently doing testing using conventional SIM cards, having been issued with 0736 as the mobile numbering prefix. Equity responded to Safaricom's protest letter dated June 26, arguing that the thin SIM technology is not new and is use in a number of countries such as UK, China, Cambodia, Taiwan, among others.
It also asked the regulator to dismiss the allegations made by Safaricom in their letter and instead leave the licensees to compete in the market freely.
"The thin SIM would eliminate the hustle associated with switching SIM cards or acquiring a dual SIM phone, thereby making it more convenient for consumers to use both lines seamlessly," Equity noted in its response.
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