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Cellphones Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi In a SIM Card 126

Posted by kdawson
from the personal-bubble dept.
gaijin_ writes "What if, rather than buying a MiFi or using a Wi-Fi router app like those on the Palm Pre Plus, you could stick a SIM in any device and have a shared 3G connection? That's what Sagem Orga and Telefonica are promising: they've developed the SIMFi, a USIM card with an embedded Wi-Fi radio that, when dropped into any standard handset, can share the 3G HSPA connection with various Wi-Fi clients as an instant access point."
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Wi-Fi In a SIM Card

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  • Beyond that my instinct says this could be huge, how big of an impact does a product like this really have? Mind you, the questions of implementation and all that aside, is this really practical or just another thing that might eventually be a standard feature?

    • Re:I'm wondering (Score:5, Informative)

      by ircmaxell (1117387) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:21PM (#31119372) Homepage
      I think that will depend on the control you have over the functionality. Will the handset be aware of the radio? Will it be able to control it (turn it on and off)? Does it support encryption?

      OTOH, it could be a portal for providing ubiquitous coverage for WiFi. Imagine having a city full of people with these (Even with reduced range to reduce the clutter). Then you would be able to access a "hot spot" from just about anywhere. Of course you'd be charged for access (by the provider most likely), but still it's a pretty cool idea...
      • Re:I'm wondering (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:59PM (#31120188)

        Of course you'd be charged for access (by the provider most likely), but still it's a pretty cool idea...

        Well, someone would be charged by an ISP for a connection to the internet, but you don't necessarily need the internet. It's easy to imagine a free mesh network running over nodes like this, with everyone running as a repeater for the common good. Various local services (bus schedules, local maps, restaurant locations, ordering a cab or a pizza) could be made available by servers connected to the mesh network without anyone paying for an internet connection. And of course people could run free exit nodes off their spare bandwidth at home or something to give the network some tenuous internet access.

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          Assuming the cell mesh had a broad enough coverage, 3G would also be unnecessary- as long as you've got some physical broadband routers signed up to the service too, everyone's mobile phone would only be a finite number of hops from the nearest physical internet connection.

          Imagine if this service were partnered with something like FON- a service which allows members to share their internet connections with other members who are out and about. In my town there are hundreds of FON access points; a mobile phon

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ircmaxell (1117387)
            Latency would be the problem with that kind of network. Unless the density of these routers was so high that you were never more than 3 hops away, but then you wouldn't really need to have the mesh network in the first place...
            • by Patch86 (1465427)

              True, but it'd be a great backup.

              Using FON as an example- the FON network has got plenty of access points in UK these days thanks to the partnership with BT, and my town has got an AP maybe every hundred meters or so. That means I'd never be more than a few minutes walk from the nearest AP, but there are still blackspots. And if I go to a less densely populated are, or out of town, the blackspots would become more and more pervasive.

              If you worked a mobile mesh into the equation then you a) cover the blacksp

      • by sznupi (719324)

        I think that will depend on the control you have over the functionality. Will the handset be aware of the radio? Will it be able to control it (turn it on and off)?

        SIM cards often expose customized menus to the phone. Or, describing it other way around, are allowed to take over the phone. So I guess there is a possibility of sensible integration.

        • by Macfox (50100)

          It's call STK or SIM Application Toolkit. Fairly old GSM standard. A small update for 3G was made a while back. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIM_Application_Toolkit [wikipedia.org]

          STK is clunky at best. It's a polling arrangement. The phone polls the sim and it then replies with what it wants the phone to do. You certainly couldn't get the throughput needed via the SIM slot. I haven't RTFA but given it takes about 20-30secs to download 100 contacts from your SIM, it unlikely this new card would be using the existing standa

    • Actually, I can already do this with my Nokia 5530 XpressMusic. It's a basic 2G phone with WiFi. Since it's 2G, I don't pay for data services. Yet I have access to high-speed capability whenever I'm at a WiFi hotspot. I couldn't justify the cost for 3G for the occasional times I'd want to access the internet. WiFi is a great compromise.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      None what so ever.
      If you have a smartphone then you would have the option to use wifi.
      If you have a feature phone you could use Bluetooth.
      If you in the US AT&T and TMobile will let you use that sim when hell freezes over.
      Really just about any smartphone could do this right now except the phone companies don't want you to do it.
      You see you will have a much better end user experience using a separate device like a USB stick. And you would only have to pay an extra 50 to 90 dollars a month for it. So you s

    • Ah crap (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)

      It has a HUGE impact. Now, when you go to a tech convention, instead of having crappy wireless at the convention center, you will have 5000 people, all carrying their own access points, trying to use the same dozen channels! Horray!

    • Probably unlikely for the most part. Especially since many handsets (smart phones) have hardware that already has a wifi device as well as the ability (hardware wise) to do wifi tethering. My jailbroken G1 does this pretty nicely, though I actually use the bluetooth option, and only allow my laptop to use it. Most of the carriers specifically don't want a single account to be able to share data with multiple devices.
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      I have an app for that on my Windows Mobile phone, wmwifirouter if anyone is interested. The main problem with it is that it drains the battery very quickly.

  • With Joiku hotspot thingy.

    So I'd buy this because?

     

  • Progress. (Score:3, Funny)

    by migla (1099771) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:16PM (#31119280)

    Wifi on sim? Before you know it, you will get Sy-Fy in Vim.

    • If anyone is going to implement a decent DVB-T decoder with ASCII rendering, you just know it'll be running under emacs...
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by migla (1099771)

        this claimer: I should not be posting anything at the moment.

      • http://sourceforge.net/projects/aatv/ [sourceforge.net]

        Should work with your DVB tuner, if it has V4L drivers, and supports textmode output to a terminal...
  • by czmax (939486) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:18PM (#31119314)

    This is a technical "solution" to a non-technical problem. The ability exists today but is predominately blocked by the cell phone providers.

    This quote from the article shows how deluded these people are: "it seems likely that carriers would give the SIMFi away as long as you took out some sort of mobile data contract". If that was the case then I'd be able to use tethering on my iphone RIGHT NOW.

    Sure, neat technical hack. Nice miniaturization there. But making this functionality available in a smaller form factor isn't the problem.

    • Exactly. Any Wi-Fi card these days can work in AP mode, so any cellphone with Wi-Fi can potentially do this already. Manufacturers just don't care to do it and/or telcos don't care to allow it.

      On an unrelated note, how on earth are they pulling this off? As far as I know, at least regular SIMs are limited to pretty low power, the data rate is really low, and they don't have access to the cellphone's data connection. I can't see this working unless USIM was expressly designed to support this kind of usage; i

      • Yeah, I was just thinking the other day about how retarded it is that we can't do this. My phone has WiFi; I assume that the WiFi and 3G are capable of operating at the same time. My laptop has WiFi. I don't see any good reason why I can't set my phone to be an ad hoc network and let the laptop connect. If cellphone carriers are ok with selling you MiFi devices, then I don't know what'd be wrong with allowing users to do this sort of tethering with a phone.

        Obviously they want you to buy a separate data

        • At least in the UK the mifi is marketed as a "mobile broadband" device with "mobile broadband" plans.

          What the carriers don't want you doing is using an "unlimited" phone data plan with a PC because PCs can much more easilly use a hell of a lot of data. I doubt they would care too much about you using your phone to browse on a "mobile broadband" plan.

        • I don't see any good reason why I can't set my phone to be an ad hoc network and let the laptop connect.

          Um, you can with a phone that isn't locked down so you can't use it..

          Windows Mobile - WMWifiRouter
          Symbian - JoikuSpot

          A quick google says there's one for Android but it requires rooting; same for iPhone.

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that just what we call "tethering"? That is, where your phone acts as a modem for your computer?

          I'm not aware of anyone doing it with WiFi as you describe, but I'm fairly sure many phones can do it via BlueTooth. That is to say, they can use their 3G connection to hook up to the internet, and then serve that data via BlueTooth to your laptop. USB cables are an option too.

      • by omnichad (1198475)

        And then since there's plenty of combo bluetooth/wireless chips already in phones, there's no reason to put this functionality in the SIM anyway.

    • Bingo. Carriers go to great lengths to make it a pain in the ass to tether phones and only grudgingly allow it in limited cases for extra money as long as you use their proprietary "dialer". They want the process to be annoying enough that people only do it when they have absolutely no other choice. There are plenty of smartphones with built-in WiFi but I can't think of a single branded phone (in the US) that has the necessary software installed. If carriers wanted to facilitate this type of thing, they

      • by KC7JHO (919247)
        Treos all have it, you will have to do a little digging in the windows directory for the executable but it is there.
    • by owlstead (636356)

      Meh, I can do USB tethering on my Android phone (Hero) right now. It's as easy as going into the menu and enable the tethering, and then plugging it into my laptop. I was a must have feature for me. No 20 euro additional charge - and for 30 euro a month for my ADSL I have telco WiFi access points to boot. Just don't buy an iPhone. I must admit that the persons in the telco provider shop were rather reluctant in admitting that it was possible.

      PS for those in NL, that's KPN mobile and XS4ALL ADSL I'm using, I

    • by Splab (574204)

      Sounds like you live in the US.

      I work for a Telecom in EU and we coulnd't care less if you where tethering your handset, 3G data traffic is cheap and if you tether your phone/device, chances are you are opting for a large dataplan which means we earn money, or if you are less inlighted and opt for a pay per MB we would be even happier.

  • Antenna? (Score:5, Informative)

    by molo (94384) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:20PM (#31119358) Journal

    You still need a 2.4GHz antenna, which at 1/4 wavelength is more than 2cm. Where are they going to put it? Certainly not in a standard SIM chip package.

    -molo

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Perhaps a reduced distance? The power will be very low anyway, and there isn't much need for a rate higher than 1mbit (at least with 3g). How is it that those little bluetooth dongles work that are no longer/wider than a USB plug (1cm)?

    • There are plenty of 2cm 2.4Ghz antennas - see 90% of the Bluetooth dongles out there. They may not be the most efficient antennas in the world, but they do work.

    • You are assuming that the manufacturers will favour electrical law over design aesthetics.

      I'm more worried about the effect this will have on battery drain. Will each sim come with an external cell in a shoulder bag?

    • Re:Antenna? (Score:5, Informative)

      by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:38PM (#31119788) Journal

      I agree -- it's not practical. Just look around: there's no [newegg.com] other [ebay.com] products [dealextreme.com] that manage to shrink [slashphone.com] an antenna down in size, and still operate at 2.4GHz, are there?

      Given the severe lack of anyone doing stuff like this, it must be impossible to use an antenna shorter than a quarter-wavelength for anything [eham.net], ever. I mean, it's obvious [psicompany.com], isn't it?

      • by molo (94384)

        Okay, good point. I shouldn't say that its not possible to emit RF within that package, but it certainly becomes less efficient and less practical. Range, sensitivity and power efficiency will suffer.

        -molo

        • by adolf (21054)

          Okay, good point. I shouldn't say that its not possible to emit RF within that package, but it certainly becomes less efficient and less practical. Range, sensitivity and power efficiency will suffer.

          Less efficient and practical compared to what? An 802.11 radio+antenna which doesn't fit into a SIM card?

          If so, then you're comparing apples to oranges.

          (You're an engineer, aren't you?)

        • I'm willing to bet all of the products mentioned by adolf are using some sort of fractal antenna design.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_antenna [wikipedia.org]

          • by adolf (21054)

            And while I'm sure you'll probably never read this, I'm willing to bet that you're wrong (and I only bet on a sure thing).

            I own the dealxtreme bluetooth adapter that I linked, and I've had it apart*.

            The antenna is just a short pattern of traces that looks like this:

            _ _ _ _
            | | | | | | | |
            |_| |_| |_|

            The proportions are about right**, incidentally, in ASCII form. The widgth of the squiggle is about 6mm according to my ruler. And, frankly, there ain't much fractal about that -- it's just a squiggle

    • by EkriirkE (1075937)
      Fractal antennas [wikipedia.org]
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      A standard SIM is 25mm by 15mm. 1/4 wavelength at that frequency is about... 25mm.

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Considering that it would be probably used predominatly as "personal hotspot" (giving data access from a mobile phone which you carry...to devices which you are using), the range can be quite a bit less than in typical WiFi hotspot.

    • It doesn't have to be straight... Just imagine, if you will, a 2cm long antenna with a 90 degree right turn in it every 0.5cm. I'm pretty sure that would fit in a SIM.
    • People with EyeFi cards seem to do well enough. They are WiFi devices in an SD card, which isn't much larger than a SIM card.

    • by rey1024 (1744332)
      may new technology can hiding wireless antena or including it on sim card. nice news
    • by yellekc (819322)
      In many cases, such as this one, there is no need for perfect 1:1 VSWR [wikipedia.org]. In broadcast, you can have several kilowatts, or more, of RF power going into an antenna. A high VSWR can be very bad. When you only need milliwatts of ERP [wikipedia.org], you can deal with inefficient antennas.
    • It's not 1920 anymore. There are 2.4 Ghz antennas that are the same size as a grain of Basmati rice.

      Example: 2.2mm x 6.5mm 2.4GHz Ceramic Chip Antenna [sparkfun.com]

  • share the 3G HSPA connection with various Wi-Fi clients as an instant access point

    Great... I can has cheap 3G data access now? Don't know what it's like in the US, but this side of the pond I'm looking at at least £1 per Mb.

    • by richtaur (1234738)
      Most of the US nerds like me probably have infinite data plans on their mobile devices, spending ~$80/month.
      • by crwl (802043)
        Jesus. Here in Finland I pay 9.8€/mo (about $13.4) for my unlimited 3G data plan. Without any forced bundle package, tie-in to a particular phone or anything like that.

        ...and I can share the connection over Wi-fi with JoikuSpot Lite for free with my Symbian phone...
    • If you're paying £1/Mb, shop around.

      I have no idea about on contract, but three has 30p/MB on PAYG, after your initial "free" 150MB per topup (6.6p/MB @ £10topup).
      Or if you just want mobile net access for your laptop, its £15/month = 5GB/month or £7.50/month = 1GB/month over the air.

      • You can also get 1 GB for 5 pounds with the Internet Monthly addon (which are taken from your topped-up money, so you essentially pay 10 pounds and get 1.15 GB + 5 pounds for calls or a few more MB). Or just top up 5 pounds online and get a decent 1 GB for 5 pounds, 0.5p/MB.

    • by RichM (754883)

      Great... I can has cheap 3G data access now? Don't know what it's like in the US, but this side of the pond I'm looking at at least £1 per Mb.

      No idea where you pulled that number from - you only get charged that much if you go over your allowance.
      I use HSDPA on 3 (three.co.uk) and I pay £15 for 3GB of data on Pay as you Go.
      I use the 3G modem for my home computer and get speeds of 3MBit usually, if I run out I just buy a voucher from any shop and top up using my web browser. If you use data ca

  • This could be a start for those of us not willing to pay monthly data plan fees to get a smart phone out of our dumb phone. I don't want to pay a hefty monthly fee just to own a smarter phone. Oh, wait, I have Verizon, no SIM slot. So I can't use it anyway. What about a microSD equivalent, with some brains as well as a radio and of course some flash memory?

    • by trapnest (1608791)
      TFS mentions a "USIM", so this is CDMA technology.
      • by felipecn (1496599)
        WCDMA technology, so UMTS. That's the "3G evolution" of GSM. There is also CSIM (or R-UIM), for CDMA phones, but I think only KDDI Japan uses them. You won't find a (pure CDMA) Verizon phone with slot for a SIM.
    • I'm not sure about combining flash memory and a radio on one card. However, plain, old microSD wifi cards have been on the market for quite a while now.
  • They won't like this one bit and go to great lengths to disallow or prevent it from working.

    • by CdBee (742846)
      Given that the carriers distribute the SIMs for their networks, not hard for them to prevent it !
    • by Scutter (18425)

      They won't like this one bit and go to great lengths to disallow or prevent it from working.

      Most US carriers already officially disallow tethering preferring instead that you subscribe with an additional device (like an Aircard or a MiFi), and charge you a healthy premium for the privilege. In some cases you can fly under the radar, like with a jailbroken iPhone on AT&T.

      • They won't like this one bit and go to great lengths to disallow or prevent it from working.

        Most US carriers already officially disallow tethering preferring instead that you subscribe with an additional device (like an Aircard or a MiFi), and charge you a healthy premium for the privilege. In some cases you can fly under the radar, like with a jailbroken iPhone on AT&T.

        My Touch Pro 2 on Sprint came with an "Internet Sharing" app in the programs menu, for sharing 3g over USB or Bluetooth..

    • Consider how much you have to pay for data when you go beyond a typical 5GB/month limit. I would guess that your wireless provider would be more than happy to enable you to quickly burn through that 5GB and start paying the exorbitant overage costs.
  • >What if, rather than buying a MiFi or using a Wi-Fi router app like those on the Palm Pre Plus, you could stick a SIM in any device

    But you *can't* stick a SIM in "any" device, only in GSM devices. Won't work on two of the three largest carriers in the USA, Verizon and Sprint. To make matters worse, Verizon will still charge a fortune to do that, and Sprint dropped the ability to legitimately tether smart phones completely (although you can do it with the Pre quite easily, anyway, but it is not legit.

    • Re:SIM=GSM (Score:4, Informative)

      by sznupi (719324) on Friday February 12, 2010 @06:06PM (#31120300) Homepage

      Well, Sagem and Telefonica certainly aren't concerned primarily about limitations of US cellphone market. Telefonica cares mostly about their network technology, which is quite firmly in GSM family. As is 80+% of mobile subsribers in the world.

      I don't expect any drivers to be neccessary; this solution seems to be precisely about NOT using "special" phone. SIM cards typically expose to a phone their customized menu item, so there's certainly a way to control any functionality added in the hardware of said card.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Right. Not to mention, whats the speed of SIM reads and writes? From my experience theyre unusually slow, like 14.4kbps slow. Its an ID card, not a fast storage option. A lot of good thats going to do you when that internet connection is a 1mbps.

  • I herd you like wireless connections...
  • What is the price $1 per meg? and $5 per meg outside of the usa? mexico and canada $2 per meg?

    • by steeviant (677315)

      What the fuck are you talking about? This device is designed by a european telco for people in europe to tether wirelessly using a sim card and wifi.

      Why would you think data is more expensive the further you get from the world's greediest bastards? If anything the opposite is true.

  • Already does this using the hardware in the phone. I use it on my iPhone. It's also available for Android, Palm, Blackberries and Winmo.

    (can also use USB for tethering, works better than Apple's own)

    http://www.junefabrics.com/index.php
  • They'll cripple the feature. AT&T will complain if you use it.
    • by ^_^x (178540)

      I was actually thinking that if they can make it work, we won't be able to opt out. After all, most providers don't offer unlimited data - so if you go out and can't help it when strangers hop onto your AP and surf the net through your phone, racking up data charges? It's just money in the carriers' pockets.

  • Ignoring the technical challenges of getting a WiFi transceiver into something the size of a SIM card - how exactly is the SIM card trading data with the cell phone to begin with?

    Cell phones have an open back door to their wireless data channel through the SIM interface? One that will, without software on the phone, just allow you to transport data?

    Even if you CAN talk through the SIM card interface and for data around how ever you want - how fast is that interface? It's meant to read off SIM cards that h

  • Sagem Orga and Telefonica are promising: they've developed the SIMFi

    SCNR...

  • because the signals that go between a phone and a SIM don't have ANYTHING to do with the signals needed to pass data between cellular and anything else. The connection to the SIM is a very low bandwidth connection, only a few kilobits per second, because all it does is store the subscriber idenity (IMSI), PIN, and phone book. When the phone is doing EDGE, 3G, or other high bandwidth data services, none of that data normally goes anywhere near the SIM.

    It might be possible to engineer something like this

  • Usually SIM card is placed in a socket with metal shield or clip, with circuit board and a keyboard on one side (keyboard mostly consisting of two layers of conductive film) and a battery on the other side (containing metal electrodes and cell casings).

    With shielding like that, good luck getting any signal in or out, unless this thing has a separate connector for an antenna outside the card (and good luck getting support for that from phone manufacturers and carriers).

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