Gemplus, the world's leading smart-card maker, has developed a 16-kilobyte SIM card which will enable users to bank using their mobile phone in Hong Kong. The GemX16 card allows local GSM (global system for mobile) and PCN (personal communications network) operators to offer remote access to banks, airlines and retail stores. Gemplus today will hold its worldwide launch of the new card at Asia Telecom '97 in Singapore. Remy de Tonnac, Gemplus Asia-Pacific managing director, said individual telecom firms would choose whether to offer the service and would have to form the appropriate alliances to be able to do so. Gemplus, based in France, has a 65 per cent market share of SIM cards in Asia-Pacific and supplies more than 180 GSM operators worldwide. Of the territory's three GSM and five PCN operators, three parties have so far agreed to use the GemX16 card. Gemplus declined to identify the companies, but confirmed Singapore Telecom also would be offering GemX16 card services. Local telecom companies are expected to introduce the new card with various service offerings by September. In addition to banking services, GemX16 is capable of facilitating a personalised menu and greetings, weather forecasts and traffic reports. Its spare EEPROM memory - more than twice the amount from the previous generation of SIM cards - enables more features and services to be loaded. GemX16 also is capable of storing up to 50 phone numbers or 300 short messages and supports Asian-language systems such as Chinese, Thai and Korean. Mr de Tonnac said the card's biggest impact would be in the financial sector. He predicted SIM cards would transform mobiles into portable automated teller machines. As a result, however, 'banks could see telco companies as potential competitors', once the two industries had established direct links and offered similar remote services. The telcos would have the advantage of low overheads, Mr de Tonnac said. 'Banks would have to decide whether to join them or fight them,' he said. Advanced services using the SIM card might include stock purchasing, Internet surfing and electronic commerce transactions. Mr de Tonnac said Hong Kong would prove to be an ideal test market in Asia for the GemX16 market given its high proportion of mobile owners and the competitive operator environment.