• United States

Gemplus to soon offer 1GB SIM

Feb 20, 20063 mins

Gemplus International seeks a broader role for its core product in mobile phones, the SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card.

“If you look at the SIM card five or six years ago, it was primarily an authentication platform,” said Gemplus President and CEO Alex Mandl in an interview at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona last week. “But today it’s becoming a whole different device with a whole different set of capabilities.”

For a start, storage capacity is growing, up from the initial 8K bytes to today’s 128M bytes, with 1G byte “just a matter of months away,” said Mandl.

The push to offer 1G byte-SIM cards comes as numerous handset makers, desperate to pack more storage into their devices for phone books, pictures and songs, have begun to integrate swappable flash memory cards, typically 256KB in size.

European mobile phone operator Orange SA became the first operator to use Gemplus’ 128MB SIM card designed to help customers manage large multimedia content files.

Because SIM cards offer a high level of security, they can also serve as a DRM (digital rights management) platform, an important development considering the growing popularity of music, game and video downloading services, according to Mandl.

While the bulk of the content is stored on the handset, storage of personal data and DRM processing take place on the SIM card, guaranteeing the integrity of the application before letting it run on the phone, according to Philippe Vallée, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Gemplus. As a result, content providers and operators don’t have to format content to the various DRM protocols hotwired into a range of devices, he said. SIM card DRM returns the control of service delivery to operators and their content partners.

At the event in Barcelona, Gemplus launched .sim, a software and SIM platform that offers consumers an easy way to manage and synchronize their contacts via their PCs. The platform also automates the installation of media players and instant messaging clients onto handsets and allows for easy sharing of content between devices.

For operators, .sim means “increased stickiness,” said Mandl. “Operators and handset manufacturers have, to some extent, a competitive relationship in terms of who gets to position themselves closet to the end-user customer. Our new service gives them claws to dig into the consumer environment.”

Beyond SIM cards for mobile phones, “ID security is becoming a huge business,” said Mandl. “The bulk of our business today is with governments but numerous enterprises are becoming interested in our technology as well.”

Another growth market is in financial services, according to Mandl. “There is a migration of the credit card away from the magnetic strip to the chip,” he said. “This development is happening mostly in Europe but increasingly in Asia.”