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SIM-ultaneous phone users


Regular readers will have probably twigged I have a bit of a soft spot for Vodafone. The problem with having favourites is when they disappoint it hurts a bit more.
If another network had just decided to terminate it’s multi-SIM offering I’d be clinical about how it was the wrong move, but with Vodafone it’s upsetting.

The way multi-SIM works is you have two, or more SIMs, with the same number. A single bill and when you make a call from either the same number appears on the screen of your friends phones.

You decide which phone to use for incoming calls, and if it is off the call is diverted to the other one.

Vodafone was the only UK network which offered it properly. Some of the others did if you were a director of the company or a VIP. While multi-SIM is common outside the UK, it was clearly something of a kludge with Vodafone. The tariff was prohibitive – no bundled minutes and £12.50 per month per additional SIM. Yet it was so much the right thing to do. In this age of increased data connectivity it’s even more so. And they’ve withdrawn it.

Expansys HTC Touch Diamond advert

Use cases are simple and multiple. If I had a Porsche (I wish, a white GT3 please) or BMW, it would come with a built in phone. It’s all very well having a simple PAYG SIM in the dashboard but everyone will call me on the phone which is in my pocket. I could set it to divert when off to the carphone  but that would cost me for every call and if I wasn’t in the car the messages would go to the wrong voicemail. With multi-SIM I could just switch off my W760 when I got into the car and the carphone would kick in.

If I had a voice phone and a Blackberry, as most Blackberry users do, I might want to send texts from my Blackberry, and make and receive voice calls from my Sony Ericsson. As people often call me in response to texts – I think that’s down to my being anal about spelling and punctuation so they don’t want to text back – I want the phone number on my texts to be the same as my voice phone. Otherwise I have to hold a 60mm wide phone to my face and that’s never a good look.

If I had an iPhone and a voice phone I might want to use it for visual voicemail to pick up my messages but use my voice phone for er, voice.

All of this means having two, three or more phones with the same number. In practice I do have multiple phones but it’s a pain for those who call me to know which number I’m on.

Business case is even more compelling. Networks worry a lot about ARPU and churn. Both statistics have a big effect on their share price. They want lucrative loyal customers. With three SIMs in three phones I’m none of these. With one account I’d be both. As we move to multi-device ownership ARPU has become something of a misnomer. It’s not per User but per SIM. I guess as they are now USIMs the U can stay. If the network combined the accounts of their users who have multiple SIMs they would have fewer subscribers but each would look better on the spreadsheet and that’s been what networks have been after since the end of the subscriber land-grab about five years ago. With three SIMs from three networks a consumer will regularly look for the best deal, there is not too much at stake to migrate one or the other. Migrating all three at once becomes a bit more of a considered decision.

Maybe withdrawing multi-SIM is a decision Vodafone should reconsider.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.



I had a phone but it wooden work. Bad jokes are the only reason not to make a phone out of wood. Holding something fragrant like sandlewood agains your face is so much nicer than plastic. It is a shame that this Nokia phone is just a concept.

Perhaps one of the duffest pieces of reporting is this one on the top 5 mobile operating systems. It’s a badly drawn list of stating the obvious.


If you want to fake your own death it is probably best not to report it using your own mobile phone.

Networks have very clearly failed at promoting video calling. So showing how it can give you less information rather than more may not be a smart move.

Tesco mobile is a rare thing. A successful MVNO. They have driven prices down.

Scott Durchslag, formerly of Motorola and now CEO of Skype has laid out his plans for the service and fixing customer service in particular talking to Rupert Goodwins of ZDnet.


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