The eSIM or ‘electronic SIM’ will replace physical SIMs in the majority of phones, in the few short years ahead. It has been a standard in development for 10 years now, a process that was initiated by Apple.
I’ve worked for phone companies for the last 15 years and I think eSIM technology is the biggest change to happen to phones in that time. Changes are not far away. There are rumors that the new iPhone 8 will have an eSIM.
Setting the scene : The majority of users now own their phone
More than 60% of Australians now own their phone outright rather than buying it under contract from a phone company. Cheaper prices from the grey market, a growing range of phone leasing options and a recent increase in the number of people holding on to their 2 year old device rather than upgrading has put the power back in to consumers’ hands.
Once individuals own the phone, they can add whatever SIM they like to it and if they are on a prepaid or month to month plan change whenever they want to.
How the eSIM will affect you
To users, the eSIM will have 3 main effects :
- It’ll be easier to connect : Telcos have historically made it deliberately hard to change phone companies. Needing a physical SIM is a bit like needing a certificate from the post office to change TV channels. With the eSIM, you’ll be able to connect to a phone company and plan from settings, when you open your phone, without ever leaving your home. Signing up will be a totally digital experience. Many high street phone shops will close.
- You’ll have more variety : The ease of connection is likely to lead to a lot more choice in the plans available to ordinary users. You’ll be able to buy ‘all you can eat data’ for the hour you’re stuck at the airport or pick up a local prepaid connection when you’re travelling rather than paying roaming rates.
- Phone plans will be cheaper : There are literally dozens of smaller phone companies in every country. Most people know only the major 3 or 4. The ability to connect right from your handset to a plan on a list will raise the visibility of competitor options and Stimulate competition. Many smaller phone companies already lower prices and use exactly the same networks as bigger phone companies.
What’s in it for the phone companies?
It’s not all negative for the telcos. The upside for them is the Internet of things. Think of all the Coke machines with SIMs in them which now need an expensive person to go around to them all and change the card from phone company to another when data rates change.
As cars, kids’ backpacks, watches, emergency buttons, wheelie bins and so on are all connected, the eSIM will bring new revenue to the phone companies and a lower cost to manage each service.
A tiny technical change which will rock your world
It won’t be long before we look back on the SIM as we do the typewriter. Unwieldy, inflexible and outdated. Phone companies have lured us in to two year contracts with shiny devices which kept us from examining the real costs involved and options available.
Cisco say that data usage is rising exponentially each year in the Asia Pacific region. We increasingly expect and rely on a mobile connection to the internet wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. The eSIM will make the future of telecommunications more user and consumer friendly. And it could all start as soon as this September.