Sagem Orga SIMFi embeds WiFi onto a 3G SIM card

What if, rather than buying a MiFi or using a WiFi router app like 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 WiFi radio that, when dropped into any standard handset, can share the 3G HSPA connection with various WiFi clients as an instant access point.

The SIMFi uses SIM toolkit applets running on the card itself, meaning there's no setup hassles or handset-specific configuration.  Instead users would presumably change any access point settings – security, for instance – via the SIM menu in the first device they slot the SIMFi into, and then use it plug-and-play from that point on.

It's a promising idea, and we're guessing that with Telefonica on board the SIMFi will be seeing a commercial release rather than floating around as a proof of concept we can't get hold of.  No word on what sort of price each of the modules commands, but it seems likely that carriers would give the SIMFi away as long as you took out some sort of mobile data contract.

Press Release:

World premier: Sagem Orga and Telefonica turn the SIM card into a Wi-Fi hotspot

Barcelona, Mobile World Congress 2010

Smart card expert Sagem Orga (Safran group) and Telefonica, one of the world's largest telecommunications companies, are enhancing mobile broadband services by offering "SIMFi," the first SIM card with integrated Wi-Fi. Using the SIM as a hotspot is expected to have the potential of becoming the next killer application.

Millions of subscribers are using netbooks and notebooks to surf the Internet while on the move, and this has become a strategic market for mobile operators. To enable Internet access, all of these mobility devices use the USIM card to authenticate the user on High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) networks, but there are some drawbacks that are slowing down market penetration. These include complex 3G modem and driver set-ups the user must perform, the use of accessories and cables such as USB modems, PCMCIA modems, handsets and certain software, and the complexity of service use.

By turning the SIM card into a Wi-Fi hotspot, Sagem Orga and Telefonica have developed a solution without all these hurdles. An embedded WLAN modem in the SIM card, driven by the SIM toolkit applets running in the SIM, will enable Telefonica to broadcast High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) Internet access through Wi-Fi to notebooks and netbooks. The new generation USIM card "SIMFi" can be inserted in any type of classic handset to act as a universal and interoperable HSPA/Wi-Fi router for any device.

"We strongly believe that SIMFi, with its unprecedented functionality for wireless access, will significantly improve the user experience," explained Remy Cricco, Technology Innovation Manager at Sagem Orga. "If customers can connect their notebooks to the Web anytime and anywhere by simply using what they have with them most of the time and what is the most trusted secure device – the SIM card – adoption can be expected to be enormous."