Equity Bank, through its subsidiary Finserve, last week launched its thin SIM cards into the market, heralding a new phase in Kenya’s telecommunication industry.
The SIM cards are film-thin (0.1 millimetres) and come embedded in a chip.
The cards, which were supplied by Taiwan-based tech firm Taisys Technologies, can be layered over the active side of another operator’s SIM to act as a bridge between the phone and the primary SIM card.
This feature had market leader Safaricom up in arms claiming it could pose a security risk and threatened to review its legal commitments to M-Pesa customers who opt to use the card.
Equity selling the Equitel cards at an initial discounted price of Sh500, with Sh200 worth of airtime on activation during the rollout phase.
Once layered on top of the user’s current SIM card, a phone with just one SIM slot can operate like a twin SIM phone. The Equitel SIM can be used in tandem with another card without affecting the services of the original provider.
The lender hopes that this interoperability will offer it an entry point in a market where consumers have proved difficult to move from preferred networks.
To activate the card, customers are required to link it to their Equity Bank account or open an account with the lender in case they do not have one. Users can open new accounts from their phones without having to visit a banking hall.
The lender is riding on Airtel’s infrastructure to offer voice, SMS and data services to subscribers. It will cost Sh4 to make calls on the Equitel platform and Sh1 to send an SMS.
Equitel is also offering mobile money and banking services on its platform with transfer of money within Equity Bank’s network and Airtel Money being free.
Users can also transfer money to other banks at between Sh0.75, for Sh50, and Sh200 for the ceiling of Sh1 million.
Equity says it signed up one million subscribers during the pilot stage which began last year. This saw it close the 0763 prefix and move to 0764. It is also giving out normal SIM cards for free.
The lender has, however, warned its customers not to attempt to peel off the thin SIM cards after they have been layered on to the primary cards, lest they “develop technological issues”.