Taiwan firm ships in Equity's thin SIM cards


Equity Bank plans to use the cards to roll out telecommunications and mobile banking services. PHOTO | FILE

Taiwan-based tech firm Taisys Technologies says it has delivered its first batch of the ultra-thin SIM cards to Equity Bank, indicating that the lender could be getting ready to launch its telecoms and mobile banking service.

Taisys said Tuesday in a statement the thin SIM cards, which are overlaid on ordinary ones, would help Equity to “challenge (Safaricom’s) M-Pesa monopoly.”

Cecilia Cheng, sales and marketing representative at Taisys, told the Business Daily that the company had delivered the thin SIM cards to Equity Bank but declined to discuss the size of the consignment or the expected date of launch, which the lender has kept secret.

“The ultra-thin SIM cards are already delivered to Kenya but it is up to the bank to decide when to launch,” said Ms Cheng in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“Taisys is bound by a confidentiality clause so I cannot discuss the number of SIM cards we sent over.”

John Waweru, executive director of Equity Bank telecoms and mobile banking subsidiary Finserve,  Tuesday declined to comment on the matter.
He also declined to disclose the number of SIM cards they had ordered or even give a possible launch date.

The SIM cards are film-thin, embedded with a chip. They are layered over the active side of another operator’s SIM to act as a bridge between the phone and the primary SIM card.

Equity Bank plans to use the cards to roll out telecommunications and mobile banking services, riding on Airtel’s network and allowing users to access two mobile networks on the same phone.

The special SIM cards sparked off controversy involving Equity’s mobile banking subsidiary Finserve, MPs, Safaricom and industry regulator the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

Safaricom, the country’s leading telecoms firm, was first to oppose the thin SIM technology claiming it would compromise the security of other mobile subscribers.

However, after talks with Equity and mobile operators, the CA gave the lender the go-ahead to roll out the overlay cards on a trial basis lasting one year.

READ: Safaricom sounds warning to users of Equity's thin SIM

During the trial period, an independent consultant is expected to conduct a technical audit to determine if the technology poses any security risks to users’ data and mobile banking transactions.

The regulator also demanded that Equity undertakes to compensate subscribers for any losses that may arise.

Parliamentary Committee on Energy and ICT then sought to halt the launch, arguing that a technical audit of the cards’ security features needed to be conducted first.

Francis Wangusi, CA director-general, overruled their order, stating that the authority was an independent body and that MPs did not have legal powers to stop Equity’s plans.

“We are an independent authority and it should be clear that this means there should not be interference by political, government or commercial interests,” Mr Wangusi told the Business Daily in an interview last month.

Jason Ho, Taisys chief executive, said in a press statement from the company’s Taiwan headquarters that Equity was going to provide an alternative mobile banking and mobile money solution to consumers, breaking M-Pesa’s grip on the local market.

“With a population of 40 million, and 14 million mobile money users, Kenya is a mature market with users familiar with mobile financial services,” said Mr Jason. “Taisys sees this as a great impetus for growth in mobile banking.”

Taisys, a company founded in 2005, is currently present in Taipei, Beijing, Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg where it serves over 10 million customers.