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p>Equity Bank has won the battle with giant mobile network operator Safaricom over its planned entry into mobile money transfer services by introducing the use of thin SIM card technology after The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) dismissed Safaricom’s objections to the technology.

The giant telephony company had written to the regulators seeking to block Equity Bank’s, Finserve Africa from entering the lucrative mobile money services market using the paper-SIM tech on security grounds.

Safaricom maintained that the overlay SIM card would compromise the security of its 19 million money transfer service customers as the technology had the ability to quietly steal data from the main SIM, including the secret personal identification numbers and pass them to a third party.

The slim SIM technology allows for this particular card to be mounted on the already existing traditional SIM cards.

However, the CA board has only allowed Equity Bank, which won a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence in April this year, to use the Taisys thin-SIM technology on a pilot basis for only one year under strict observation.

The CA maintained that they had established that the overlay SIM card technology complies with minimum mandatory standards in manufacturing and no major complaints regarding the interception of communication on the main-SIM have been reported so far.

“The intention of the authority to license these operators is to encourage the innovation in the country’s information and communication sector that will spur competition in the various segments,” said CA’s board chairman Ben Gituku adding that, “if any vulnerability is discovered within this testing period its use will be revoked.


Safaricom welcomed CA’s decision but urged the regulator to fast-track the security review over the thin SIM and publish the guidelines in the interest of protecting consumers and financial institutions.

“We are further encouraged by the CA’s commitment that in the event of any vulnerability during the testing period, it will take steps to suspend the use of the SIM overlay in the Kenyan market,” Safaricom’s director of corporate affairs Nzioka Waita said.


Consumers stand to be the biggest winners following this verdict which experts believe will set the stage for a price war which is likely to see the cost of money transfer decreased.

Equity’s entry into Kenya’s mobile market could seriously threaten Safaricom’s dominant grip on the country’s mobile market considering that while Safaricom is the largest mobile network operator in Kenya with over 19 million M-Pesa users, Equity is the largest bank in East Africa with a customer base of over 8.7 million bank accounts and with over 50 per cent of all bank accounts in Kenya.


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