Telcos gird themselves for Nano-SIM demand
By Gabey Goh September 26, 2012
- Apple iPhone 5 expected to hit Malaysia by year end
- Maxis and DiGi have announced Nano-SIM offers for subscribers
WITH the market by market roll-out of Apple’s iPhone 5 now underway, questions are being raised by many would-be buyers on the Nano-SIM requirement.
Currently the only phone in the market which requires it, the Nano-SIM design is 30% smaller and 15% thinner than the existing micro-SIM variant.
It measures 12.3 x 8.8 mm in size and 0.7 mm in thickness and is touted to offer device manufacturers the advantage of freeing up extra space for other mobile phone components such as additional memory or larger batteries.
The Nano-SIM continues to use the same smartcard chips as existing SIM cards, will offer the same functionality as all current SIM cards and is backwards compatible with existing SIM card designs.
In June of this year, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) announced that it had agreed on a new SIM card standard, favoring Apple’s proposal over a joint one by Nokia, RIM, and Motorola.
In a post published shortly after that announcement, Forbes contributor Ewan Spence said that despite the design’s limitations, "the positives in the Nano-SIM design outweigh the negatives."
He added that "carriers will likely find it far easier to support the Nano standard, as opposed to Apple’s previous idea of a virtual software-based SIM card."
With Malaysia lower down the list for the iPhone’s official launch versus higher ranked markets such as Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong -- which had local roll-outs last week (Sept 20) -- the first wave of iPhone 5 devices to hit Malaysian soil is highly likely to be imports.
Founder of technology blog SoyaCincau which focuses on consumer mobile and telecommunications news, Amin Ashaari, said industry rumblings lean toward an October arrival date for the iPhone 5.
“There's really not much to chew on but it’s definitely this year and Celcom, DiGi and Maxis will offer it simultaneously on the same day,” he said.
Many reports by technology sites, including popular consumer technology site Lowyat.NET, offered guides and links to resources for consumers to manually cut their existing micro SIMs down to size when the device was first unveiled earlier this month.
But Amin cautions against jumping onto the do it yourself (DIY) boat unless device owners know exactly what they are doing as it does take some trial and error before getting it right.
“Most people won't bother going through the trouble. It's just too finicky, not like converting a normal-sized SIM to a micro SIM where you can just use a special, widely available stamping tool,” he said.
Ready, steady, go
With the DIY option not advisable for regular users, the question was raised over how soon local telecommunications companies would be able to offer those who have chosen to purchase their iPhone 5 overseas, a Nano-SIM to enable them to use the device fully.
Digital News Asia (DNA) reached out to Maxis, DiGi and Celcom to find out what was in store for each telecommunications brand in light of a newly created market demand for Nano-SIMs.
A spokesperson for Celcom said that the company currently does “not have any information on the official launch date for the iPhone 5 and accompanying queries on the Nano-SIM, which are all subject to Apple’s further direction.” An official announcement is expected to be issued by Celcom soon.
On Sept 20, Maxis issued a statement saying that its customers who already have an iPhone 5 and those who plan to purchase the device in the future can get the Nano-SIM for RM25 beginning Sept 24.
Purchases can be made at selected Maxis Centers in the Klang Valley specifically KLCC, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Sunway Pyramid and The Gardens as well as in Queensbay Mall in Penang and Danga Bay in Johor Bahru. It will be made available at other Maxis Centres nationwide by late September.
On Sept 24, DiGi also made a similar announcement, offering existing postpaid customers the option to pay RM20 to swap their existing SIM to a Nano-SIM.
In addition, beginning Sept 26, customers who sign up for any DG Smart Plan or DG Postpaid Plus package will be given the Nano-SIM for free. The full list of participating DiGi outlets can be found at this link. For the Klang Valley, it will be in DiGi stores located in Plaza Low Yat, Berjaya Times Square, SohoKL.
SoyaCincau’s Amin said that he does not see much incentive for mobile device manufacturers to make the move to the Nano-SIM standard anytime soon.
“Just look at the current scenario, there are still a number of normal sized SIM devices entering the market and top-end smartphones have only just moved to micro SIM, so Nano-SIM phones are more likely to be released next year,” he said.
The main factor for this delay is product development cycles, with Amin pointing out that it will be costly and timely for many manufacturers.
“If I have a product that uses a normal SIM or micro SIM ready to go now, making the switch to Nano-SIM will mean going back to the drawing board. So you might as well go with the smaller SIM for the next product still in development and only if offers considerable benefits. Why fix something that ain't broke?” he added.
He also said that the new standard will mean customers will not have much freedom to choose their preferred operator when the new iPhone is available in the open market.
“Operators who don't offer Nano-SIMs but want to welcome iPhone 5 users with cheaper data plans will have to consider the cost ramifications to justify the investment, and considering the fact that most iPhone buyers prefer to get the device subsidized, operators not offering the device may see little need to offer the Nano-SIM. Not initially at least,” he said.