An Ofcom working group has advised the regulator that it needs to keep tabs on emerging SIM technology, which could allow users to swap providers without swapping SIMs, to ensure consumers are getting a fair deal.
The report, Reprogrammable SIMs: Technology, Evolution and Implications by consultancy group CSMG and commissioned by Ofcom, concludes that the impending explosion of machine-to-machine communication will also see traditional SIMs replaced with programmable software alternatives.
Ostensibly, this will allow deployed smart meters and similar devices to use whichever mobile network best fits their needs at any one time.
But the introduction of reprogrammable SIMs – sometimes termed the Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) or Soft SIMs– has consequences for consumers and businesses, the report states.
“The consumer would be able to select an operator at a later point in time, potentially using a menu of available operators and have that operator subscription downloaded to their SIM,” it said.
That could be good news for consumers, making the process of changing mobile operator easier. But it also means, network operators “may be reluctant to bring eUICCs to handsets,” the report authors warned.
However, interest in Soft SIMs may well come from device makers.
Apple recently introduced new touchscreen technology into its latest iPhone 5 simply to shave a few millimetres off its thickness; the chance to free up space by removing a SIM card slot would likely be jumped at.
And Apple, along with other handset makers, consistently looks to implement smaller SIM cards in their devices.
“If [eUICC] were to be further developed as a consumer proposition, then [Ofcom] must understand and monitor how eUICC-based solutions will be implemented in handsets, and the necessary processes involved in switching and swapping,” the report concluded.