Increasing Mobile Penetration by Lowering User Entry Barriers and Liberating Mobile Phone Users from Operator Lock

-in
Keru Antony (antonykkiarie@gmail.com), Obura Kirimi (kirimi.achieng@gmail.com), Mworia Wilfred Mutua (wmworia@gmail.com)

Abstract
A key challenge facing mobile users has been the varying payment plans and offers given by the different companies. In a bid to gain market share, some of these companies have created extremely competitive pricing plans for their users. These pricing plans however, are usually targeted at gaining and locking in customers, hence while making calls or sending text messages from one mobile phone to another, where both phones are using the same provider has become fairly cheap; doing the same across different service providers is still very expensive. With n different mobile service providers, how can a user enjoy the different benefits of whichever mix of service providers he/she wishes to subscribe to on no more than a single mobile device - protecting mobile service users from lock-in and giving them the freedom to enjoy the various services as they would wish?

Introduction & Problem Statement
The number of mobile service providers in Kenya (and in many other African countries) has increased greatly. In Kenya, there are now four mobile service providers: Safaricom, Zain, Yu and Orange. A key challenge facing mobile users has been the varying payment plans and offers given by the different companies. In a bid to gain market share, some of these companies have created extremely competitive pricing plans for their users. These pricing plans however, are usually targeted at gaining and locking in customers, hence while making calls or sending text messages from one mobile phone to another, where both phones are using the same provider has become fairly cheap; doing the same across different service providers is still very expensive. Furthermore, the different mobile service providers have offers that last through certain times of day and not others, making it more attractive to use one particular service within say, morning hours and another service at a different time. Adding to this is the complexity to the mobile phone user of maintaining multiple contact lists; many users stick to one service provider (despite higher service costs) because all their important contacts are using the same service provider. These factors have led to a common problem: most mobile phone users tend to have multiple SIM cards or one SIM card per service provider. This was a fairly good solution when there were only two mobile service providers in the country. However, having two SIM cards for the two mobile service providers (at the time) had an adverse effect; if you had one phone, it meant that you could only be reached on one of your two phone numbers at any given time. People resorted to buying two phones, one for each service provider, in this way; one could be reached on whichever number at any given time. However, there are a few problems with this solution: firstly, buying a second phone means an additional cost (which perhaps the less well off in society could not afford); secondly, one had to incur the burden of carrying around and maintaining two different phones.

Later on, advances in mobile devices introduced dual-SIM mobile phones. One could have two SIM cards in one phone. This solves the problem of maintaining two different phones. However, in most of these devices, and especially the more affordable ones, there would be a blocking effect caused by the fact that the phone could only route phone calls to only one Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card at a time. But with advances in the technology one phone could switch between the two SIM cards transparently. (Interestingly, today there are even quad-SIM mobile devices!) Now, the last three paragraphs have been written with the assumption that there were two mobile service providers. Today, as earlier stated, there are four mobile service providers thus compounding the problem further..and because they all have competitive pricing plans, it is now common to find consumers with up to four SIM cards to one phone; or in some cases four SIM cards to multiple phones. This has become a burden to the user. It is this very problem that this paper seeks to provide a solution to by describing some experimental work we are doing. The intent here is to find a lasting solution such that with n different mobile service providers, a user can enjoy the different benefits of whichever mix of service providers he/she wishes to subscribe to on no more than a single mobile device. Hence instead of having a many (service providers/SIMs) to many mobile devices (referred to hereafter as the ‘m:m’ scenario), we seek to present a solution that will enable a many (service providers/SIMs) to one mobile device scenario (referred to hereafter as the ‘m:1’ scenario). This solution aims at protecting mobile service users from consumer lock-in tactics used by their providers thus enabling them to enjoy as many services as possible from as many providers as possible and give them the freedom to enjoy the various services as they would wish.

Justifying the Problem

It has already been shown that there are already some alternatives that address the stated problem. So why should we seek another alternative? Is the problem grave enough to warrant this? The use of mobile phones has been growing rapidly in recent years, especially in Africa. For the typical African, the mobile phone may be the only computing device they have or will probably ever get to use. The mobile phone has become the computing device of choice for Africa and the developing world. This can be seen through the tremendous growth of mobile service provider subscriber bases. In Kenya, Safaricom, the largest mobile service provider in the country has over 12 million subscribers. Recently the mobile services market has become even more complex with there being four mobile service providers in the country. The mobile phone has become a powerful tool to fight poverty; with innovative solutions such as Safaricom’s award winning MPESA utility that has become enabled the un-banked population to obtain some financial services. Recently, Zain, another player in the mobile market in Kenya also launched what it calls Zap, a similar ‘mobile money’ application. The power of the mobile phone to alleviate poverty and bring social change can also be seen in the recent emergence of the Mobile 4 Change conferences that have been held in different cities around the world. These conferences seek to find ways of leveraging the mobile phone to bring about social change. Prof. Nathan Eagle, a professor with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been involved in innovating in this area. He has created a service called txteagle (http://txteagle.com) that enables ordinary people to get paid for carrying out simple tasks on a mobile phone such as translating texts. An extensive report on the impact of mobile phones in Africa carried out by Vodafone [Vodafone 2005] provides some interesting insights. For example, according to the paper, at the end of 2003 there were 6.1 mobile telephone subscribers per 100 inhabitants in Africa, much less than in other parts of the world such as the 55 per 100 in Europe at the time. However, the growth of mobile telephone has been phenomenal; for example, there was a 1000% increase in subscribers in Africa in the 5 years to 2003. Furthermore, whereas Europe took 15

years to get to a point where the penetration of mobile phones surpassed that of traditional land lines, it took Africa only 5 years to do the same.

Figure 1: Growth of Overall Mobile Penetration Source: Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 2, 2005; Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones

More recent studies show the exponential growth of mobile in Africa and the developing world is still continuing:

Figure 2: Africa subscriber growth.

The dynamics of Africa also tip the scales much more. In Europe and the US, the mobile phone is considered really as a personal device, however, Africa, for example, the sharing of mobile devices in communities has given even people without personal handsets access to mobile telephony. The same paper goes ahead to elaborate on how the mobile phone has had an impact on economic growth in developing countries, the effect on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as social impacts. For example, there have been indications that there is a strong correlation between mobile penetration and things such as GDP, GNP and other economic indicators, social-demographic indicators, urbanization and more.

Figure 3: Mobile subscriptions and GNI per capita (2002) Source: Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 2, 2005; Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones

In regards to FDI particularly, it appears, by looking at the levels of FDI in relation to the growth of telecommunications sectors and particularly mobile telephony in developing countries, that there is a strong correlation:

Figure 4: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Inflows per capita 1998-2002 average.Source: Vodafone Policy Paper Series, Number 2, 2005; Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones

This is even without mentioning new and innovative business models that have come up especially in the developing world as a result of mobile telephony. Looking at this evidence, we can form the hypothesis that developing countries can make even greater developmental strides by increasing the penetration and usability of mobile services even further. We hold that this can be done at least in part by lowering the barrier to entry for mobile service consumers. One such way of doing this would be to solve the stated problem of service lock in and associated costs of e.g. cross provider charges.

Our Work: The Virtualized SIM - Multiple ‘SIM’s on a single Smart Card
An interesting trend in Operating Systems development nowadays is Virtualization. This trend has found its way to the mobile device. The virtualization company VMware has worked on a virtualization platform for mobile devices termed the VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform that decouples the applications and data on a mobile device from the underlying OS platform [VMware MVP]. Other

companies such as HipLogic and VirtualLogix have also been working on bringing virtualization to the mobile platform. Open Kernel Labs has succeeded in creating such a platform, the OKL4 microvisor, [OKL4] which has been used to successfully virtualize Motorala's Evoke, giving the mobile phone the capability to run two different Operating Systems. Our work borrows in principle from this concept of virtualization. The distinguishing factor being that we are seeking to take virtualization even further, to the smart card platform!

Assumptions
There are two key assumptions made in the solution provided: 1. That that physical SIM card is provided independently of the mobile service provider: The case today is that each mobile service provider issues their own physical SIM card (i.e. the actual smart card) 2. That the target mobile device can only accommodate a single physical SIM card A key distinction is made of the physical SIM card, which is the small chip (smart card) that the user inserts into the phone. Because of the nature of how the SIM card is currently used, each mobile service provider has to issue their own SIM card and a user cannot enjoy a subscription service to that provider without having a SIM card issued by that provider, leading to the m:m situation we saw earlier. The solution presented deviates from this in that there would be only one physical SIM card that the user would need. This single physical SIM card would host multiple virtualized SIM cards (note the distinction with the GSM Virtual SIM). Each virtualized SIM card would represent a single mobile service provider and entitle the user to that provider’s service. Here’s what the situation proposed would look like: 1. Only one (1) physical SIM card per phone – 1:1 relationship between a physical SIM card and a phone

2. One (1) physical SIM card, multiple service providers – 1:M relationship between a physical SIM card and multiple service providers Before going into how our solution would work, it is imperative that we first take a look at the SIM card as it is currently implemented, what services it provides and what makes it necessary for there to be one SIM card per mobile service provider. Based on this we can then go ahead to propose the solution.

Is this even possible?
One option we have considered would involve modifying the SIM Operating System. However, this has significant challenges associated with it. First of all, there are several GSM standards that would have to be revised to allow for this. Furthermore, the current implementation of the SIM already has massive market penetration and it would be quite difficult to introduce a new SIM card, which would in itself take several years to get the same market penetration.

The second option, which provides much greater chances of success, is to provide an application level implementation of the proposed idea. The GSM standard provides specifications for the SIM Card [GSM 11.11] – both in terms of physical specifications as well as application protocols. The GSM specification 11.14 provides the specification for the SIM Application Toolkit for SIM to Mobile Equipment (ME i.e. the mobile device) interface which allows consistent implementation and function of the SIM and the ME, decoupling device manufacturers and SIM implementations. Furthermore, the GSM 02.19 provides a specification for an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows application programmers to access the functions and data described in the 11.11 and 11.14 specifications. This provides application programmers the ability to program the SIM, this provision is what makes it possible for the creation of such services as MPESA. In addition to this, an additional specification the 03.19 standard binds the API to Java Card, a subset the Java programming language. This means an

application developer can use the Java language to write applications for the SIM card. Hence, there is a real possibility of providing an application level solution without tampering with the GSM SIM specification by following the already laid out interface and API specifications. Furthermore, it is interesting that there are already precedents of SIM applications that make significant changes to the operation of the SIM. A case in point is the implementation of a web server in the SIM that allows transparent access into the Internet [WebSIM]. Guthery et al in their description and implementation of WebSIM do exactly this. They make it possible for a SIM to be accessible over the Internet, communicating via HTTP 1.0 and being able to receive HTTP requests across the Internet and the SIM is able to create HTTP responses:

Figure 5: HTTP Requests to a SIM. Source: [WebSIM]

Their work is motivated by previous work [Rees & Honeyman]. Their Webcard is a TCP/IP stack and web server that runs on a smart card. Therefore, it is quite possible to use the SIM in ways other than the intended purpose without breaking GSM standards and specifications, by leveraging the SIM Application Toolkit interfaces and APIs. Our current work involves prototyping such a solution with the aim of providing a means for a single SIM (smart card) to host and switch between multiple service providers.

Challenges
The main challenges come from the characteristics of the SIM itself. The card is greatly limiting in terms of the memory available to work with. However, from the WebSIM implementation it has been shown that it is possible to implement a web server in under 10K bytes of Java byte code. In fact their implementation as at the publishing of their paper on WebSIM was 7K. Therefore we believe it is possible to implement this without impacting heavily on card memory.

Conclusion
This paper has presented a case for the Virtualized SIM - a SIM that can host multiple service provider details and switch between them transparently on a single smart card.

References
[Vodafone 2005] Paper Series; Number 2 (2005) [VMware MVP] Vmware Mobile Virtualization platform; Africa: The Impact of Mobile Phones; Vodafone

http://www.vmware.com/technology/mobile/ [OKL4] (2009) [GSM 11.11] interface (1995) [GSM 11.14] 3rd Generation Partnership Project; Specification of the Digital cellular telecommunications system (Phase 2+); Eliminating Development Drudgery with Mobile Phone

Virtualization;http://www.embedded-computing.com/articles/id/?4086; Steve Subar

Specification of the Subscriber Identity Module – Mobile Equipment (SIM – ME)

SIM Application Toolkit for the Subscriber Identity Module - Mobile Equipment (SIM ME) interface (Release 1999) [GSM 02.19] 3rd Generation Partnership Project; Technical Specification

Group Terminals; Subscriber Identity Module Application Programming Interface (SIM API); Stage 1 (Release 1999) [GSM 03.19] 3rd Generation Partnership Project; Technical Specification

Group Terminals; Subscriber Identity Module Application Programming Interface (SIM API) for Java Card™; Stage 2 (Release 1999) [WebSIM] Posegga (2000) [Rees & Honeyman]Webcard: a Java Card web server; Jim Rees, Peter Honeyman (1999) How to Turn a GSM SIM into a Web Server:

Projecting mobile trust to the World Wide Web; Scott Guthery, Roger Kehr, Joachim

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