equity bank simTelecommunications firm Safaricom has lost the battle to block Equity Bank from rolling out mobile money services using thin-SIM-card technology.

This is after regulators granted approvals which were officially announced on Monday.

The approvals were given by both the Communication Authority of Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya.

The two dismissed Safaricom objections against the new card, which will ride on the existing SIM cards, saying that initial investigations show “that no major complaints and particularly on interception of traffic of the primary SIM card has been reported so far.”

The roll-out is to be done on a one-year pilot basis to give the two regulators opportunities to carry out a detailed study on the technology.

This was revealed in a press briefing on Monday, where the Communications Authority board chairman Ngene Gituku and CBK governor Mr Njuguna Ndung’u said the pilot will run for a year.

“We had a board meeting Friday and agreed that Equity Bank will roll out on a pilot basis, (and) if vulnerabilities are found within the period, its services will be cut,” said Mr Gituku.

Safaricom raised concerns about the security of the card, saying it could compromise the security of its 19 million money-transfer service customers.

“Based on the opinion of GSMA, save for the inherent vulnerabilities of all SIM cards, there are no specific and confirmed vulnerabilities arising from the use of the thin SIM,” Mr Gituku added.

Over the pilot period, only Taisys’ thin SIM, proposed by Equity Bank, will be allowed to operate in the Kenyan market.

The CA board made the decision following elaborate consultations that ascertained that the technology complies with all minimum mandatory international thin-SIM standards and that no major complaints on the technology on interception of traffic of primary SIM have been reported.

The CA also said China National Computer Quality Supervising Test Centre and Bank Card Test Centre of China showed that Taisys SIM complies with International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) standards.

The Global System for Mobile Association (GSMA) found no specific and confirmed vulnerabilities arising from the use of the thin SIM.

The CA has therefore begun the process of hiring an internationally reputable firm to conduct a security audit on the thin SIM during the piloting.

Safaricom has welcomed the CA’s decision to scrutinise security on the thin-SIM technology, but said it would, in the interim, review its commitment to customers and business partners in order to address legal exposures.

Source: Daily Nation