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Dual SIM entering mainstream, hinting at disruptive progress

The rise of dual SIM devices has been widely reported, but predominantly with a focus on emerging economies. I see that trend expanding into additional markets.

There are several drivers for multi-SIM usage universal across all markets:

  1. Obtaining better rates for international, local and data usage.
  2. Separating work and personal calls.
  3. Cross-border usage, where business or personal travel may frequently take users across national borders.
  4. Maintaining personal secrecy – one SIM for the family and one SIM for the lover.

There will also be a major new driver: the coming age of networking austerity. We are exploring this in MEX Pathway #1 and foresee growing pressure on consumers to optimise their data usage in response to higher charges, stricter data caps and bandwidth throttling. We may see a higher number of customers using one SIM for data (perhaps provided by a niche MVNO) and another for voice.

ViewSonic 350 dual SIM Android handset

As a result, handset manufacturers are looking at dual SIM capabilities as a differentiator, even in advanced markets. One such company is ViewSonic, showing a dual SIM Android device at MWC. It has a customised dial-pad, with one big green calling button for SIM 1 and another for SIM 2. Data networks are similarly separated. Calls can be received on either SIM at any time and are identified as coming from that specific network.

Of course, physically building 2 SIM slots into a device is merely a means to an end. The wider issue here is allowing instant commodity trading of network capacity. Apple has filed a patent for this technique, where network operators essentially go through an invisible bidding process to provide transport for the users’ communications. If achieved, it would represent a complete inversion of the relationship between customer and operator. The SIM as a token of operator ownership of the customer would cease to exist.

Operators have been understandably hesitant to range any devices with dual SIM capability. However, as the falling cost of devices from manufacturers such as ViewSonic brings dual SIM products within reach of customers making unsubsidised purchases, operators will face a changing landscape.

Disruption can happen quickly once it gains a foothold.

1 comment - join the debate

  1. MEX – the strategy forum for mobile user experience – Notes on user experience from Mobile World Congress 2011 replied:

    [...] > Dual SIM entering mainstream, hinting at disruptive progress [...]

    February 21st, 2011 at 3:25 pm. Permalink.

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About the author
Marek Pawlowski Marek Pawlowski is the founder of MEX. Since 1995, he has focused the MEX business on helping digital industries to develop better, more profitable products through improved understanding of user behaviour with mobile devices and wireless networks. MEX is best known for its events, research and consulting, which balance commercial, technical and user insights to define the future of mobile user experience. Web | Email
Posted on
15 February 2011
MWC 2011
Opinions, ideas and new thinking
Pathway #1: Network efficient UX design