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.