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July 29, 2015

Could Soft SIMs end mobile switching woes?

SIM cards provide a "monopoly on users", amidst Ofcom review.

By Alexander Sword

A review launched by Ofcom aims to reform switching between different mobile providers in the UK, but commentators argue that a focus on SIM cards could solve these issues.

The regulator identified a range of issues concerning consumers’ ability to switch between mobile operators. This includes the difficulty and cost of switching, as processes are often not coordinated and consumers may be forced to contact both providers.

Ofcom also criticised the problems with continuity between a customer’s existing service and its new one.

While Ofcom outlined some possible solutions to these problems, such as streamlining the switching process, none of these focused on the crucial role of the SIM in the switching process.

Sylvain Fabre, Research Director at Gartner, suggested that a Soft SIM approach could have a significant impact on mobile switching.

"They don’t make it super-easy," Fabre argues. "In the UK you have a monopoly on users, the SIM card, which has to be supplied and provisioned by operators."

According to the GSMA, "a ‘Soft SIM’ would be a collection of software applications and data that perform all of the functionality of a SIM card but does not reside in any kind of secure data storage."

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"Today Soft SIM is used by the Internet of Things to alleviate the problems of a SIM," says Fabre. "It’s easier to have programmable software.

"The clear application is currently the connected car. With operators, it’s in very early stages. The operators are not pushing this so aggressively."

Ofcom‘s review comes amidst a decline in the number of consumers switching: in the year to July/August 2014 only 7 percent of consumers switched, down from 11 percent the previous year and 9 percent in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

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