Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IS THIS THE DEATH OF SIM APPLICATION TOOLKIT (STK)?

STK as it appears on the phone menu and left after its opened
SIM Application Toolkit (commonly referred to as STK) is a standard of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) system which enables the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) to initiate actions which can be used for various value-added services. Most of the mobile banking solutions use STK (SIM application toolkit) to create secure, verifiable channels for transactions. Although STK is claimed to be more secure, it has the limitation that changes and upgrades require either that the SIM be exchanged or that the SIM, phone and network is set up to use secure SMS SIM updating in other words The STK technology has limited independent development support available. Maybe that explains why we have had an exodus of networks moving to the USSD codes.

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network. Applications may include prepaid roaming or mobile chatting and of recent mobile banking. USSD is similar to Short Messaging Service (SMS), but,unlike SMS, USSD transactions occur during the session only. With SMS, message scan be sent to a mobile phone and stored for several days if the phone is not activated or within range.

Today takes me back to a few years ago when I painfully had to abandon a cherished LG windows phone simply because it didn't have a STK menu. But before that I had consistently wrote to the support staff of LG and Microsoft for this issue to be resolved, hoping that maybe one day an upgrade would come up that would enable me to use that menu.
When Warid entered the market at that time it rendered the use of STK irrelevant since we could do every thing with simple USSD commands right from airtime share to self help. All you needed was a USSD code and you were on the go actually I can count the number of times I visited its STK menu.

USSD code and Orange money USSD transaction menu.
This was not the case with MTN whose has been a strong advocate for the STK (Sim Tool Kit) because it had mobile money, Me2U and all other self help services on it and USSD codes were a preserve for checking airtime balance.

Warid further added a nail on the STK coffin with the introduction of a USSD Warid Pesa transaction menu, which in my view was more reliable, stable as compared to MTN mobile money which was consistently off because of network failure. Its until late last year if my memory has not failed me that MTN introduced USSD based mobile money transaction menu after a series of upgrades.
In Africa and other developing economies, USSD has proved sufficiently secure and robust to underpin mobile banking without having the update problems associated with STK. That explains why Mtn has been pushing its subscribers to adopt to its new USSD mobile money platform.

Now that MTN has upgraded its Mobile money and with an emphasis on *165# as you have already witnessed in the several Ads in the media, could this be the final nail in the STK coffin since one of its royal advocate is shunning away? Who says that we cant hold those phone that dont come with STK menu.

Welcome to the World where USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) rules.