The mobile sector has long been the setting for a low key yet drawn out fight between handset manufacturers and operators about who sits where on the value chain. To date the handset manufacturers have been winning, with more and more functionality accumulating on the handset whereas SIM functionality stays fairly stable.This has shaped the mobile market – in the UK, operators offset expensive handset costs to them with expensive fixed contracts for us. That could be about to change with a burst of activity from the smart card manufacturers, offering SIMs with memory capacities of 5-12 megabytes rather than the currently typical 32-128 k. Currently only Orange has shown much interest but they expect 25% of their handset range to be SIM+ (as they call it) compliant by the end of this year.
It seems to me that much of thinking about mobile payments has been predicated around the continuing growth of handset functionality. Firstly, any successful application of mobile payments will have to take into account the enormous base of legacy handsets out there – not everyone upgrades every year. And secondly, if functionality growth moves towards SIMs rather than handsets, where does that leave us?
You can find out more about SIM+ by downloading Informa’s white paper on the subject.