The eSIM and Australia

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Intro – 60 second guide to Australian eSIMs

The way you choose a phone company is going to change in the near future. All indications are that the way you decide on your phone plan is, in fat, going to change a lot. The cause of the change ? A seemingly innocuous ‘eSIM‘. What is an eSIM and how does it work ?

  • An eSIM is an ’embedded or electronic SIM’ card which is built into a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet device at the point of manufacture.
  • eSIMs will empower consumers with the choice and freedom of moving between mobile phone carriers, and choosing SIM Only or prepaid plans which best suit them.
  • eSIMs have been trailed overseas in iPads and Samsung Galaxy Gear watches. Some say that the new iPhone could contain one.

What is an eSIM?

The eSIM is the new standard which, when released globally, will become the new standard. It will be a replacement for the standard physical SIM you have been using the whole of your life.

Traditional SIM cards

SIM cards currently are tiny pieces of plastic which your service provider needs to store your mobile phone number on, as well as information about your prepaid or postpaid plan, and your connection to your carrier of choice. The downside of traditional SIM cards is that they are only programmed to work with specific carriers, and this is what makes it difficult should you want to change to a different provider or travel overseas. In that event, you need to physically change the SIM in your device.

The GSMA is the association which represents mobile phone service network operators worldwide, including in Australia.  It was created to represent the voice of phone manufacturers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem for phones. The body is working towards a standard which will be the future of all embedded SIM cards. Recent reports by the Financial Times suggest that the world’s largest two smartphone makers, Samsung and Apple, are holding talks with GSMA to work on launching devices with embedded SIM cards in the near future.

Australia moving to the eSIM

The eSIM differs from a traditional SIM card, in that it is embedded in the mobile phone, smartphone or tablet you’re using. It does not need to be removed from the device, as current traditional SIM cards need to be, in order to change phone companies. Recent studies released from consumer electronics manufacturers, has reported that manufacturers are keen to adopt this technology, as it is a progressive step towards delivering the ‘Internet Of Things’ for them. That could include complete home connectivity and putting everything from buildings to busses on the internet.

eSIMs are likely to mean a better deal for consumers. Their presence will allow users to decide whether they wish to stick with a prepaid plan provider, or change operator. Importantly, they will be able to do this from their handset, in ‘Settings’ rather than having to make a trip to a telco retail store or supermarket to get the new SIM.

Will eSIMs be standardised?

Yes, the eSIM will be standardised.  The core of the improvement they offer is that all eSIMs will be completely standardised across all smartphone and tablet manufacturers in the same way that the current stock of physical SIMs is.

Apple was one of the first mobile phone companies to create something similar to the eSIM concept, which was called the Apple SIM. Predominantly this was used in iPads sold in the USA. It is highly likely, however, that this is getting ready to be rolled out world wide on all versions of their manufactured devices. Apple as a leading company in innovation and tech, would continue onward with its own version, of the eSIM. It would, of course, though, technically comply with the standards put forth by GSMA.

How will the eSIM benefit consumers?

In future instead of going to a mobile phone provider and signing up for a prepaid plan, waiting for the plastic SIM card to be sent to you and inserting it into your smartphone, an eSIM will make this process much faster and efficient. While not only being convenient for consumers to use, they will also make it difficult for carriers to lock people into expensive plans as consumers will be able to pick and choose providers at their choosing.

An eSIM would make it possible for consumers to select a prepaid plan, pick and choose, switch providers and do all of this from the handset or device by themselves. Not only does it give consumers on prepaid plans the freedom to switch providers at their choosing, it also means that for postpaid customers at the end of their contracts, won’t need to wait for a new SIM card to arrive before they continue with their next plan, as it can be done from inside their mobile phone.

When will eSIMs be available?

This is unfortunately the bad news as of current there is no expectation that eSIMs will be brought to the market on the current generation of smartphones and tablet devices. We will have to wait until at least later next year in Australia, to see eSIMs appear on mobile devices.

For now the technical specifications are still being worked on and we can’t say when they will be finalised. Rest assured that as soon as we know, you will be informed right here on WhatPhone. Our best guess would be that the new iPhone would be the ideal first generation of smartphones to feature internal eSIM technology.

Apple and Samsung eSIMs

As it was reported recently that both Apple and Samsung are in talks with major Australian network carriers to adopt embedded eSIMs for future smartphones and tablet devices. The move towards eSIMs would see the manufacturers joining others, in the mobile phone and device industry, in utilising eSIMs.

In doing so this will ultimately give consumers the option to switch prepaid plan providers at will, all without the need to ask your service provider for a new SIM card, a process which can be time consuming as well as costing a service fee for the new SIM card.

Samsung and Apple are having discussions with mobile phone carriers from all over the world, talking about their plans to launch and enable the new embedded eSIMs. eSIMs would be standardised among both device makers and smartphone manufactures, with the eSIM embedded in all devices and using an industry standard architecture.


Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.