News by Mike Ellis on Thursday February 23, 2006.
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3, the UK's largest 3G network provider, is planning to glue its SIM cards into entry-level prepay handsets in a bid to hamper phone exporters that have diverted hundreds of thousands of 3 handsets from the UK market to be sold abroad for profit. The move, starting this month, will see SIMs glued into new handsets as well as new and refurbished Motorola C975 handsets.
3 sales director Marc Allera said that the move would guarantee that "the person buying the phone will be a genuine customer and won't be selling it abroad." He also said the move followed a test launch in selected 3 stores, which he described as successful. "We've done a trial pre-Christmas in our own stores, taken feedback from staff and customers, and we think it's a practical solution."
The SIM cards are being permanently bonded into handsets using epoxy resin. The process is being handled by an external logistics company. "We will be doing this on our entry-level handsets and those that aren't secure," said Allera, adding that other handsets would be assessed on a 'case-by-case' basis.
Retail stores across the UK are in two minds about the move. On one hand, it's just an extension of the SIM lock that is applied to prepay handsets in order to retain revenue and custom. On the other hand, if the handset develops a fault, what happens to the user's contact list or personal information? Three and retailers are reported to be rolling out a free sim back up to customers who purchase a phone.