Monday, February 16, 2009

Truphone's new "intelligent SIM" at #mwc

Every now and again as you wander around the halls of the Fira you trip over something which is clearly a bit of a game changer - something deliciously disruptive. Truphone themselves seem to think so. They are brimming with excitement about it!

The new product - whose availability is still to be confirmed - is based around a combination of two key things:
  • In April 2008 Truphone acquired roaming operator SIM4travel.
  • They have now developed a SIM card sporting an ARM core and 2MB of flash storage.
This combination gives them the ability to issue SIMs which can use the intrinsic SIM signalling capability normally used to setup roaming connections etc to communicate between their little embedded device and their core network.

I will say up front that I am not very clear on the specifics of SIM signalling but as I understand it this effectively this gives them a ~256kbps data channel to the device which is both free and exists whether or not the SIM has been able to formally bind to the host network.

Clearly this opens up many interesting possibilities and I understand that beyond using it to help support their existing voip/roaming products (e.g. intelligence to allow incoming calls to be recived as if local) they are also looking at expanding into situational services - with a continuous location feed being the first element of that.

Of course there is the question of how the more conventional mobile operators will react to this since it will clearly cut into their juicy roaming revenues, and takes a step beyond their control of what happens on their network that they are unlikely to be 100% comfortable with.

This is my first really exciting product (baring our own of course ;-) of the show this year. Look forward to hearing more about it when it is officially released tomorrow.

UPDATE: On reflection I was a little loose in my use of the term data channel above. It is of course a channel that Truphone can use for their own signalling to and from the cpu on the SIM card in order to implement their services - NOT a channel for user IP data.

Truphone have now formally announced their first service built on this kit.


Pauld said...

That's been done before.

It's called the USSD channel, and every company that has tried to use it for anything other than signalling has been shut down. Simple reason - it was designed for signalling, and that's all that the MNO's allow over it.

So if you use it for data (which doesn't give anything like the throughput you mention), the mobile networks will simply cut you off.

Geoff said...

As I said I am a little vague on the specifics!

I guess interesting bit is how far truphone can stretch the definition of signalling without backlash.