Wifi on a SIM card? Yep, if SAGEM has anything to do with it.

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It says something about the array of fancy new innovations vying for your attention at Mobile World Congress that some incredibly cool developments can pass you by entirely. How – for example – did I manage to miss the unveiling of Sagem Orga’s ‘SIMFi’, which claims to be the world’s first SIM card with on-board Wi-Fi?SIM card technology just got sexy

Maybe it was the firm’s rather uninspired press release? Or maybe I just automatically switch off when the subject turns to SIM card technology? Either way, I missed a trick because SIMFi is exciting. Very. And its impact could be massive.

It’s a simple enough concept. The firm has managed to embed a WLAN modem into a standard-sized mobile SIM card, effectively turning any mobile phone that uses the SIM into a Wi-Fi hotspot. How they managed to cram all this into something the size of a postage stamp I don’t know. Anyway, this allows the handset to become a tethering tool that can connect devices such as laptops to the Internet using HSPA without having to faff around with USB dongles, embedded modules and the like.

In this respect, the technology can be seen as a competitor to portable Wi-Fi hotspots such as Novatel’s ‘MiFi’ and 3 UK’s identically-named product, both of which launched last year. But while these products do the same thing, they exist as standalone products. SIMFi, by contrast, delivers the same functionality inside the phone itself, which means you’ll end up taking a Wi-Fi hotspot with you everywhere you go.

There are multiple use cases for this technology, and many more are likely to emerge as mobile networks become faster and more reliable. In theory at least, it means a clunky old Nokia could be used to wirelessly enable a whole household.

It’s early days and Sagem Orga was light on details around pricing and availability. One assumes the cards are not cheap to produce and they’re also likely to represent a serious drain on battery life. Then there’s the issue of what this means for mobile operators, which are unlikely to be keen to distribute SIMs set-up to allow third-party devices to access their networks – especially in the current climate of data network capacity meltdown.

Interestingly, Telefonica worked with Sagem Orga on the prototype showcased in Barcelona, and it was noted in the press release that SIMFi will “enable Telefonica to broadcast HSPA Internet access through Wi-Fi to notebooks and netbooks.” Seems the Spanish operator giant is at least planning some trials, which could give us some ideas around possible business models.

Whisper it, but we could be looking at the next killer app.

mablott@gsm.org

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Member

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