Thought WiFi spectrum was congested now? You ain't seen nothin' yet, because SIM card provider Sagem Orga has hooked up with Telefonica to develop a marvel of modern technology called "SIMFi" that combines -- you guessed it -- WiFi with a run-of-the-mill SIM card like you'd slip in your cell. In practical terms, this means that you're able to turn virtually any phone (or "classic handsets," as the company calls them) into a WiFi hotspot accessible by authenticated laptops, MIDs, and miscellaneous wireless gadgets in the immediate vicinity. Frankly, the concept is downright brilliant in its simplicity -- never mind the fact that we had no idea you could fit WiFi circuitry into a 25 x 15 x 0.76mm footprint -- and we're excited for what this means for the future of tethering, assuming carriers can keep up with the spectrum demands. MiFis and Overdrives of the world, you're on notice. Follow the break for Sagem Orga's full release.
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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."