The state-run Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and telecommunications service giant China Mobile on Wednesday jointly announced the launch of a fiat digital-yuan hard wallet that allows equipped phones to transact in e-CNY without a mobile network.

Fast facts

  • The wallet, SIM Pay, is a super-SIM card with near-field communication (NFC) technology. NFC technology is already commonly in use in mass-transit and some credit cards and allows devices within a few centimeters to exchange data wirelessly. SIM Pay-equipped mobile phones can exchange the virtual asset information of the e-CNY by tapping each other. 
  • China is pioneering the world’s first major central-bank digital currency, or CBDC. The electronic Chinese yuan, or e-CNY (alternately called the digital yuan, digital renminbi or e-RMB), is issued by the People’s Bank of China. It is currently being rolled out to Chinese consumers in a soft launch that began last year. Many expect China to formally launch the e-CNY by the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
  • ICBC’s Suzhou Branch and Suzhou Mobile have agreed to jointly promote SIM Pay, and signed a cooperation agreement with the Suzhou Xiangcheng District Government to launch a local SIM card-based e-CNY pilot test.
  • Guan Yiminhai, deputy general manager of China Mobile Jiangsu, said at the SIM Pay press conference that aspects of the technology had been successfully achieved within the last year. Client-to-client (C2C) e-CNY transfer had been realized in November 2020, and client-to-business (C2B) transactions had been realized in February this year. A trial of 1,000 e-CNY SIM cards began in July.
  • China Mobile plans to provide users with more than 110 million such cards.