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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  BlackBerry’s virtual SIM solution is their secret weapon
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BlackBerry’s virtual SIM solution is their secret weapon

The ability to provision nine numbers on one SIM card will make life incredibly simple for enterprises, power users, travellers and consumers who hate carrying more than one phone

SIM virtualization allows multiple phone numbers to be active on a single SIM card.Premium
SIM virtualization allows multiple phone numbers to be active on a single SIM card.

In September, BlackBerry acquired the SIM virtualization company Movirtu. The move didn’t catch the attention of the media but it was very much in tune with the company’s enhanced focus on apps and services, particularly those meant for enterprises and business users. The latest addition to that is SIM card virtualization.

The Canadian company will leverage Movirtu’s technology to make it easier for enterprises to manage devices in BYOD (bring-your-own device) and COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) environments.

So what does SIM virtualization do? In a nutshell, it allows multiple phone numbers to be active on a single SIM card.

The technology will come to India later this year, and BlackBerry says it’s currently working with telecom operators to set up the framework for this to work seamlessly.

What is the benefit of SIM virtualization?

1.You don’t need to carry multiple phones or juggle multiple SIM cards

2.You can have different numbers for voice calls, data connections, even roaming, on the same phone

3.Enterprises will find it easier to activate and deactivate corporate virtual connections for new employees as well as those who leave

4.Users will also be able to manage their billing better, as charges can be billed separately

5.Enterprises can apply corporate usage policies on the business number.

Up to nine virtual numbers can be activated on one SIM. The interface for using this service will be an app that will be available for BlackBerry, Android and iOS smartphones. With one click, a user can add another number as their virtual number on the same SIM card.

For example, let’s say you have one Vodafone connection as the primary number for official use, and a second Vodafone number for personal use. This means two SIM cards and two phones to manage. Even if you have a dual-SIM phone, it is still a bit of a hassle. With SIM virtualization, you can set up the second number as a virtual number on the primary SIM card and use one phone for both connections.

Second, even if you don’t have another SIM card, the app can create a virtual number for you—users will get to choose a number of their preference initially, but if someone else already owns it, alternative options will be suggested. Enterprises may find this service extremely relevant—when a new employee joins, they can simply create a virtual corporate number on the person’s existing SIM, with separate billing, and without the hassle of managing SIM cards and phones. When the employee leaves the company, the virtual number can be deactivated quickly, again without the hassle of recovering and handling hardware.

The big advantage is that billing and usage can be separated. For example, you could use one number for voice and SMS, and another for data or national roaming perhaps. Once the app is installed and activated, it provides intricate control over which connection each action uses—you can choose one connection for phone calls, another for browsing the Web. So, if your company says they will pay voice-call and SMS-use bills for your official number, you can easily turn off the data plan on that and use the second SIM for a 4G/3G/2G connection.

But there are certain limitations dictated by the Union government’s telecom rules. First, if your primary SIM card is from one operator, virtual numbers of the same operator must be activated on that. So, if you have an Airtel SIM card on which you want to activate some virtual numbers, those must also be activated and billed by Airtel.

What we aren’t entirely sure of is how the virtual numbers will be activated since every new mobile phone connection here requires a complete KYC (know-your-customer) verification process. Perhaps mobile operators will utilize the user identity verified with the primary connection to verify and activate virtual numbers too.

This is most certainly poised to be a big development. In addition, its availability on almost every popular smartphone makes this flexible enough to be used with any device a user may be carrying. What’s needed is a simple activation process—hopefully this will be a more streamlined one than the verification and activation processes a user must deal with when activating a new SIM card.

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Updated: 08 May 2015, 09:02 PM IST
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