By Caroline Guillaume, Director, Distribution Solutions and Services, Gemplus
Before, if I'd been asked to write an article about the SIM, I would have extolled the ways in which mobile network operators can maximize their existing infrastructures by using this key part of their network when looking to deploy value added mobile services cost-effectively. I won't be doing that today, as this is something that operators are already keenly aware of. However, what I will be doing is examining why operators, armed with this knowledge, are putting more and more control into the hands of the end-user.
Two things we know for a fact are that there is a strong correlation between high average revenue per userARPU and higher value SIMs, e.g. those with more memory space, and that the oldest, most loyal customers tend to be those with the least capable SIM. These two points alone provide a convincing argument that operators need to re-equip this valuable section of the subscriber base with new, more powerful and higher capacity SIMs.
In this context, Gemplus commissioned an end-user survey examining mobile user attitudes to new services, SIM copying and preferred communication channels, such as voice and SMS. The results were astounding. 70% of mobile users interviewed are willing to change their SIM card to benefit from new services, with even higher scores in Russia, the Philippines and Sweden. Over 50% of these users would rather change their SIM themselves.
What was not evident was how they were going to change SIMs while ensuring continuity of service. A previous survey by TNS Sofres showed that the fear of loss of personal data is a considerable barrier in migrating to a new SIM, with 75% of European heavy mobile users put off by the idea that they will need to re-enter their phone numbers and lose their treasured SMS.
To answer this issue, we tested the concept of a SIM back-up pack by giving one to each user. Consisting of a SIM copy device (see photo), a blank smart card and a user guide, they were left to their own devices to figure out how to use it. Within seconds, most users had made a perfect copy of their SIM (phonebook and SMS data) with no re-tapping of information. Everyone went home that night with a copy of their SIM to keep in their sock drawer. The survey showed that when confronted with a device that copies across phonebook and SMS information into the new SIM, 84% were more than willing to upgrade.
In parallel, many operators have started to adopt this approach and are sending SIM migration packs in the post to specific customer segments. This consists of the new SIM, ready for activation, alongside a SIM copying device. The general reaction has been highly positive as on one hand, it is a really cool little gadget to receive, and on the other, it breaks down the barrier that many feel about moving to a new SIM card.
Focusing on end-user usability and ease of use will ultimately enable operators to increase loyalty through VIP offers and to make SIM management fast and simple. With this in mind, SIM suppliers have developed new tools and software for copying, backing-up, editing and managing SIM data, designed for use both by the end-user in the comfort of their own home, or by retailers in the phone shop.
SIM management solutions using the PC interface
Copying the SIM is one thing, but even with the best phone in the world, managing your SIM contents is never going to be as user-friendly as via the PC interface. The TNS Sofres survey showed that 65% of users interviewed would be interested in editing and managing SIM contents in this way. MySIMeditor is a software solution from Gemplus that lets the user visualize their card contents via the USB.
Once installed, the user can upload, download, delete, drag contents from MS Outlook, internationalize their numbers (put the +44 for the UK in front, for example) and draft SMS to their heart's content. They can even set up templates of frequently sent SMS, such as directions to their house, to be downloaded and sent off to all the guests for that night's party. Then all they need to do is download the new data to the SIM, put it back in their phone and off they go, safe in the knowledge that even if they lose their mobile, all the info is backed up on their hard disc. This sort of solution is ideal for companies managing large fleets of mobile phones in the work force. As with email, fleet managers will be able to manage all arrivals, departures and changes in the work force and give the new account manager a professional mobile with their colleague's phone numbers already pre-loaded on.
One thing is clear. In mature markets, SIM renewal has become a key part of every operator's strategy. As a way of encouraging loyalty, targeting high-end users with a new SIM and equipping them with the means to make the copy themselves is second to none. Another thing we know is that users with more phonebook space make more calls. So in the bun fight for increased ARPU, what are operators waiting for to launch their SIM migration campaigns.