For some time now, those in the know are aware that Equity Bank has been on the course towards introducing its own network into the Kenyan market to compete with the likes of Safaricom, Airtel, Yu, and Orange. In light of this interest, Equity has faced a lot of legal suits particularly from Safaricom. The major issue that Safaricom highlights is the security of the SIM overlay technology that Equity intends to use. Despite this, it seems that Equity has decided to issue regular SIM cards while the legal spat continues in the courts.
Consequently, Equity started issuing these ordinary SIM cards on Tuesday, 14th October. They are based as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), meaning that they use another operator’s network and masts, but remain independent on terms of products and services. The SIMs come as standard mini SIM, and can be obtained at any Equity branch for free, provided you have an active Equity account. The network is apparently dubbed Equitel, and uses the prefix 0763xxxxxx. The major theme is integrating banking and mobile services. Consequently, purchase of airtime or data is exclusively through the linked bank account. Equity is aiming to avoid any additional costs of printing and distributing cards by this feature. Other services include the ability to apply for a loan, getting account balances and other account management features such as changing the PIN. In addition, you can manage an ATM card or even a cheque from your device. Costs and charges are not yet confirmed, though unofficial reports suggest that calls within the network will cost 3 per min while those out of the network will be 4 shillings. For now, this is not particularly different from other industry players.
It is expected that most features will be added over time, and the currently existing ones will also be improved. It seems SIM overlay technology will have to wait, but Equity is eager to venture into the industry, maybe to get hold of some ground as it awaits the court’s decision.