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GSMA proposes embedded SIMs like those rumored for iPhone

updated 10:45 pm EST, Wed November 17, 2010

GSMA plans built-in, remote activated SIM for 2012

The GSM Association tonight discussed plans for a new, embedded SIM card that could simplify activation and allow new devices. A "task force" of carriers that includes AT&T, T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom and Verizon hopes to replace the SIM card on some devices with a built-in design that would allow remote activation. Users could not only start using a phone without having to enter a store but could see 3G or 4G devices where even a micro SIM was too small, such as a camera or an MP3 player.

A study of market needs should be finished by January, with shipping hardware arriving in 2012. Any moves would be made backwards compatible and wouldn't exclude removable SIMs.

The described approach almost exactly mirrors one proposed for the iPhone. Gemalto has reportedly developed a mix of read-only and writeable flash that would securely activate an iPhone on a given network through an App Store download. As proposed, it would be targeted primarily at Europe and not necessarily the rest of the world. t's unclear whether the technique would be compatible with or upgradeable to the GSMA proposal.

Regardless of manufacturer, the approach should allow for more efficiently packed devices and ease ordering phones and tablets online, but it could complicate usage in other countries without hte option of simultaneous activations. Many in Asia and Eastern Europe prefer dual-SIM phones as they either have service in more than one country or mix and match service plans.

By Electronista Staff


  1. aristotles

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Jul 2004


    Bad idea. That is a step backwards.

    It would eliminate the ability to "unlock" or sell unlocked phones. It is copying CDMA which uses preprogrammed phones that you cannot move onto other carriers. It is anti-consumer.

  1. appleuzr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006


    comment title

    I second the bad idea. This gives the carriers more control, which I do not want. I like the idea of them being able to kill the SIM if I lose a phone and just being able to give me another SIM for whatever new device I choose. If it's built in I will have to get a new phone from them and I won't have the opportunity to pick it up elsewhere for a cheaper price. This is exactly what they want. Bad idea.

  1. driven

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: May 2001


    Horrible idea

    This idea kills one of the main advantages of moving away from CDMA.

  1. Fast iBook

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003


    Bad not just from consumer viewpoint...

    Sims tend to go bad from time to time. I can't take the battery out of my iPhone, ok that's fine, i can do a hard reset by holding the 2 buttons, but not being able to take sim out is one step way too far.

    - A

  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: Jul 2006


    A Bad Idea

    The biggest plus of GSM is that SIM. It has let me move my T-Mobile account through a string of phones from the little candy-bar one they gave me when I signed up to my current iPhone 3G without having to complicate my activation by having to go through T-Mobile. I've changed the phone i use in less time that it would take to touch-tone my way through T-Mobile's phone system to began to wait for a human to come online and at no cost to them. I couldn't have done that with Verizon, and I won't be able to do it if this scheme is applied.

    I suspect this is yet another illustration of cell-phone manufacturers and cellular providers colluding to lock us in to their products. From their perspective, GSM's SIM and all the convenience it creates for users was a serious mistake. And with LTE going into service during 2011 and offering even more portability between carriers (as long as the phone can handle the frequency), they know they must do something drastic to lock us in. Removing the SIM is that something.

  1. resuna

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2005


    Agree with the other posters

    This would just hand too much control over to the carriers.

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