Embedded eSIMs vs Soft SIMs – What’s the difference ?

Embedded eSIMs vs Soft SIMs

In this article we explain how eSIMs are different to Soft SIMs and which technology is of use in which situation.

Introducing the differences : eSIMs vs Soft SIMs vs Reprogrammable SIMs

Technology often starts with a number of similar and competing rivals. Take the home video player for example. Betamax fought with VHS for a few years before VHS became the standard.

The same is happening now, in the telecommunications industry when it comes to SIMs and the rising tide of their next generation. There is a lot of talk in the industry about Embedded SIMs vs Soft SIMs vs Remotely Provisioned ‘Soft SIMs’.

A number of ‘factions’ are competing to further their interests. As usual. Each group has different needs and propose different technology to achieve them. The current status of each and the feedback we’ve heard about their motivation leads to a compelling, seemingly likely outcome.

Let’s consider who’s involved and what they want.

  • Big Telcos :
    The tier 1 phone companies ( including, in Australia, Telstra and Vodafone ), appear, at this stage, appear largely resistant to change. Contacts in one of these companies have indicated that they have reached some of the same conclusions as we have about the medium term effects : Specifically, that smaller phone companies will be beneficiaries of the increased competition eSIMs will provide. Bit telcos fear higher levels of churn associated with a phone plan market with the reduced friction that any non hardware based SIM would lead to.
  • Small telcos :
    Smaller ( ‘MVNO’ ) phone companies, are starting to look in to the next generation of SIMs and how it might affect them. The feedback we’ve had are that the larger players and their wholesale providers are tight lipped on the subject.
  • Phone makers :
    In the industry, these are called ‘OEMs’, a definition which includes Apple and Samsung. They have each started trials of ‘eSIMs’. However, both are actually physical SIMs which can be reprogrammed. We explain the difference below.
  • Businesses :
    There are a lot of businesses around the world interested in and pushing for Machine To Machine communication. The numbers are staggering. Some believe that by 2020, there will be 70 billion devices connected to the internet.

Commonalities between Embedded and Soft SIMs

The purpose of a SIM isn’t being changed by any of this technological evolution. SIMs will always be and have always been a way for people to have a secure method of accessing a phone company network.

However, as we all move to a world of billions of Machines communicating with billions of machine and the Internet Of Things, the practicalities of maintaining secure access to wireless networks for each device devices becomes problematic. There are two polarized solutions proposed and one option which appears to be an acceptable compromise for most parties involved.

 

Comparing Embedded SIMs and SoftSIMs

The two polarized next gen SIM solutions are :

  • eSIMs – The Embedded SIMs :
    Embedded SIMs are physical SIMs which are permanently placed in ( literally embedded in ) devices which connect to the internet. They are integral to the device. i.e. They cannot be removed. Embedded SIMs are already a huge deal for car companies. Most new luxury vehicles shipped in the northern hemisphere contain embedded SIMs. These are seen as more secure by the telcos but less convenient for business seeking to connect their coke machines to the internet. Machines like this could be out in the field for years, unsupervised. At some point, the owner may wish to switch telcos. If the SIM is embedded and fixed to a single telco, this could be difficult.
  • Soft SIMs :
    Are a conceptual capability in a device. They can be provisioned remotely ( OTA – Over The Air too. ) There is no SIM at all in the device. The provisioning information is held in memory as part of other computing equipment. Phone companies are against these because they are perceived as more exposed to the question of hacking. And hacking could compromise individuals personal information and telcos revenue / brand.

The medium ground – reprogrammable SIMs

The medium ground appears to be a practical reality. Reprogrammable SIMs are in existence and in use already.

  • Remote Provisioning ‘reprogrammable’ SIMs :
    A physical SIM like the Apple SIM which can be reprogrammed with the provisioning information from a number of different networks. These SIMs have more memory so they can hold more than one operator profile. Swapping profiles has the same effect as swapping SIMs between operators. However, they can still be removed from the product and replaced with the physical SIM from any other phone company. In this regard, the Apple SIM provides for the benefits of both extreme solutions and removes the ability of the phone companies to not play. If, for example, in Australia, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone refuse to sign up to Apple’s Reprogrammable SIM program, customers could not select to connect to those phone companies’ networks through Apple’s settings. It’s possible that those customers would be able to sign up to smaller phone companies’ networks who did offer to participate. In either circumstance, if the person with the iPhone wanted to get a hardware SIM from phone companies who were not involved, they could. Everyone is at least satisfied.

The GSMA is moving towards a single agreed standard which will cover the requirements of all three of these solutions. It may take a long time to get there. It appears that, with the Apple SIM and equivalent reprogrammable SIMs, the thin end of the wedge has been defined.

 

Best SIM Only Plans September 2018

Strong, Simple Plans & A Well Known Brand

Best for big mobile broadband bundles

 

 

 

Amaysim | Prepaid Plans | Optus Mobile Network 3G+4G

Amaysim are the 4th biggest phone company in Australia with over 1m customers. They consistently have one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry and have prepaid (28 day expiry) plan range – just select the option you want in their checkout. With Amaysim, you’ll get:

  • Strong plan range:
    Amaysim have a range starting at $10 per month and rising to $50 per month. Data inclusions are up there with the best available and, with Amaysim, things are nice and simple. You’re just buying voice calls, SMS and data. There are no optional extras.
  • New International Inclusions:
    Any plan you buy, starting at $30 per month will now include free International Calls to 12 destinations.
  • Great Customer Experience:
    Amaysim are consistently one of the best performing†phone companies when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Amaysim’s plan range:

You can find out more about this company in our Amaysim review.

CHECK AMAYSIM PLANS

 

Vaya Mobile | Winner of The Best Value Plans 2018 Award

Best Value Plans 2018

 

 

 

Postpaid | Month to month agreement | On the Optus 3G + 4G Network

Vaya offer a range of affordable postpaid plans on the Optus Network. They were recently bought by Amaysim and have cleaned up their image since they were acquired. Customer service complaints are down and they now offer a price match guarantee ñ a unique feature in the Australian market.

With Vaya, you will get:

  • Access to the full Optus 3G and 4G network:
    Optus’ 4G network now rivals Telstra for speed and coverage. With Vaya, you can get access to the same thing.
  • Unique ‘Price match Guarantee’:
    Uniquely, Vaya will match any other price plan you can
  • The WhatPhone 2018 Best Value Plans Award:
    How could we not give Vaya the best value plans award when they will offer to match any other plan on the market?
  • Nothing you don’t need:
    Vaya plans don’t have entertainment options, data rollover, data

Vaya’s Plan Range

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Vaya Mobile review.

CHECK†VAYA†SIM PLANS

 

Southern Phone

 

 

 

Postpaid | Month to month + 12 month contracts | Optus 3G and 4G Plus

Southern Phone are a well known, full service phone company brand based in New South Wales with some great .

With Southern Phone you’ll get :

  • A choice of month to month or 12 month agreements:
    Unusually, Southern Phone offer access to their plans as either 12 month contracts or, month to month agreements.
  • A choice of the Telstra Mobile 3G + 4G or Optus 3G + 4G Plus network:
    Southern Phone are one of the few Australian telcos who offer their customers a choice of the Optus or Telstra Mobile network.
  • Best for bundles:
    Picking up a SIM Only plan as well as a fixed broadband connection will get you a discount.

Southern Phone Month to Month Phone Plans (All Green Plans on the Optus 3G+4G Plus Network.) 

Southern Phone 12 Months Phone Plans (All Green Plans on the Optus 3G+4G Plus Network.) 

You can find out more about this company in our dedicated Southern phone review.

CHECK SOUTHERN PHONE SIM PLANS

 

SpinTel

Postpaid | SIM Only | Month to Month Agreement | Optus 3G + 4G Plus Network

SpinTel are a postpaid provider with a one of the most useful data management features we’ve seen. With SpinTel plans your data is ‘capped’ when you reach your limit. With most other post paid phone plan providers, when you hit your limit, you’ll be charged $10 for an extra GB which is not as fair as we’d like to see.

With SpinTel you’ll get:

  • Great data pricing:
    Compare SpinTel to the best of the rest and you’ll see, at the price points they sell, SpinTel are often the best value.
  • ‘Capped plan’ data limits:
    If you want your phone service’s data to stop at a limit you set, SpinTel are the right phone company for you. So far as we know, they are the only company to offer this feature.

SpinTel plans for your mobile.

CHECK SPINTEL SIM PLANSAdvertisement

 

Moose Mobile : WhatPhone 2018 ‘Best Overall’ Award Winner

Moose Mobile logoBest plans overall 2018 - Moose

 

 

 

Postpaid | SIM Only | Month to month agreement | Optus 3G + 4G Plus

Moose are a new Australian phone company which stormed on to the market in early 2017. They offer a fantastic range of plans, with huge data allowances which exceed those available from competitors. Customer feedback has been so good about the company, we had to award them the ‘Best Overall’ award as part of our 2018 review.

With Moose You’ll get:

  • Best value data inclusions:
    Starting at less than $10 per month, Moose offer consistently strong pricing, especially on their 4G data inclusions.
  • Excellent customer feedback:
    Moost stand out from the pack on customer service with phenomenal online reviews.
  • Nothing you don’t need:
    Moose keep it simple. No included streamed audio or video, these are a phone plans with nothing you don’t need.

Moose plans for your mobile

You can read more about this company in our Moose Mobile Review.

CHECK MOOSE  SIM PLANS

 

OVO Mobile – Free Video & Radio Content

Best Entertainment plans - 2018

 

 

 

Prepaid | 30 day expiry | On the Full Optus 3G and 4G Network 

OVO’s offer a totally new way of looking at a phone company – they’re one of our best selling partners. Their plans are, pretty much on a par for data inclusions with the best in the industry. In addition to talk time, SMS and data, OVO’s plans include exclusive access to exclusive video content. All of OVO’s plans come with ‘OVO Play’ an app which lets you watch their free content on your plan. With OVO, you’ll get:

  • Free Video Content – Motorsport, Sailing, Gymnastics & Water Polo :
    OVO offer a growing list of free video and audio content. Motorsport fans might like the 400 Thunder Professional Drag Racing Series, Australian GT, Formula Drift and other petrol head live streaming. OVO Play also includes other sports like sailing and gymnastics. The price of the content is included in the monthly line rental charge you pay OVO for your prepaid plan. So, importantly: You won’t see your data balance decline while you’re watching them, the streamed content is free.
  • Free Streamed Audio:
    OVO’s plans also offer FREE radio streaming, also included in your plan offers access to the Tripple M network and other selected stations.
  • OVO for Kids:
    OVO’s plans come with the offer of free access to Parental Lock software. Buy your child the $9.95 plan from OVO and you’ll be able to monitor what they access on their phone and set times for it to turn off and turn on it’s own connection to the internet.

OVO Plans for your mobile

Picking an OVO plan is simple. All of OVO’s plans include Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers plus superfast 4G data.

You can learn more about them and their unique content in our OVO review.

CHECK  OVO MOBILE SIM PLANS

Kogan Mobile – Best Value on the Vodafone Network

Kogan Logo

 

 

 

Prepaid | 30 day expiry | On the Full Vodafone 3G and 4G Network 

Kogan Mobile keep it simple. They have some of the most competitive SIM Only / Prepaid plans in Australia, on the much improved Vodafone network. With their multi month recharge options, Kogan add some genuine value and choice to the market.

With Kogan, you’ll get

  • Monthly, quarterly or annual options : Do you want a single recharge payment with a 1, 3 or 12 month validity ? With Kogan, you’ll get discounts for multi-month purchases you were going to make anyway. They add the convenience of less frequent running out / topping up. And they keep the total predictability and flexibility of prepaid.

Kogan’s 30 day plan range :

Kogan’s 30 day plans all have Unlimited talk and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers. The difference is the amount of data which is included.

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. See all Kogan Plans including 90 day and 365 day plans. You can find out more about this company in our Kogan Mobile review.

CHECK  KOGAN MOBILE PLANS

Telstra Mobile – Best For Coverage

Telstra Australia

 

 

 

Prepaid + Postpaid | Month to month and contract

Telstra are unrivalled in Australia for coverage, with a 3G signal that covers roughly twice the landmass of any other phone company except Boost Mobile.

  • Unique coverage footprint:
    Access to 2.5m square Km
    of the Australian landmass.
  • Unique video content:
    Only Telstra provides data free streaming of the AFL, NRL and Australian Gymnastics in their plans.
  • Fair data:
    Telstra now offer ‘Data Banking’ on some of their plans and provide Unlimited data options.

Telstra’s Plan Range :

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Telstra Mobile review.

CHECK TELSTRA MOBILE  PLANS

 

Woolworths Mobile

Postpaid | 12 month contracts | On the Telstra 3G and 4G network

Woolies are one of Australia’s most trusted brands. Now, they offer a range of 12 month SIM Only (postpaid) on the Telstra Mobile network. Many Australians visit Woolworths every week making the company’s telco offering familiar and accessible. With Woolies you’ll get

  • Access to the Telstra network from a reliable brand:
    Woolworths use part of the Telstra Mobile Network.  You can see their coverage map on their site.
  • Data bank feature:
    Woolies are one of three companies which offer a data bank feature. Whatever data you’re given, you keep – forever. (Up to a maximum of 30GB.) In our view, data banking is the fairest way a phone company can treat data.
  • Nothing you don’t need:
    Woolies are now an established telco. Their 12 month plans offer decent value and, for most people, who won’t change their phone plans more regularly than once a year anyway, Woolworths make a great ‘set and forget’ option.

Woolworths plan range

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Woolworths Mobile review.

CHECK WOOLWORTHS MOBILE SIM PLANS

 

Belong Mobile | Fairest For Data

Best Data Plans 2018

 

 

 

Postpaid | Month to Month agreement | On The Telstra Mobile Network 3G+4G

Belong sell access to the Telstra Mobile Network. They have a simple to understand plan structure with options on data, national ($5 extra) and international calls ($5 extra.) Belong also offer the fairest treatment of data that any phone company in Australia have. a ‘data vault’ feature. Whatever data you buy, is yours, forever. It just keeps rolling over until you use it or leave them.

With Belong, you’ll get:

  • Data Vault:
    All Belong’s Mobile plans come with ‘data vault’. When you buy your data, it just keeps rolling over until you decide to use it or leave them!
  • $5 International Calls:
    And if you want to make Unlimited International Calls (to 10 selected destinations – or to 23 selected countries’ landlines) just add $5.

Belong Plans For Your Mobile

  • Belong Mobile $10Advertisement = Unlimited calls and SMS in Oz + 1GB of data.
  • Belong Mobile $15Advertisement = Unlimited calls and SMS in Oz with unlimited international calls & text to 36 selected countries + 1GB of data.
  • Belong Mobile $25Advertisement = Unlimited calls and SMS in Oz + 5GB of data.
  • Belong Mobile $30Advertisement = Unlimited calls and SMS in Oz with unlimited international calls & text to 36 selected countries + 5GB of data.
  • Belong Mobile $40Advertisement = Unlimited calls and SMS in Oz + 15GB of data.

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Belong Mobile review.

CHECK BELONG MOBILE SIM PLANS

 

Boost Mobile | Best Prepaid Data Rates On The Full Telstra Network

boost mobile logo

 

 

 

Prepaid | 28 day expiry | On The Telstra Mobile Network 3G+4G

Boost Mobile are a reliable brand. They are the only phone company other than Telstra to resell the full Telstra ‘Retail’ Network. With Boost you’ll get:

  • The full Telstra Mobile Network
    Other phone companies resell part of the Telstra Mobile Network. Only Boost and Telstra plans allow you access the whole thing.
  • Free streamed audio:
    Data free streaming of Apple Music (requires subscription) on top of the data included in your plan.
  • A range that includes 7 day and 28 day plans:
    Boost offer a selection of plans including 7 and 28 day variants.
  • Recharge options from $10 to $50:
    Boost have a total of 5 recharge options for their prepaid plans, ranging between $10 and $50.

Boost Mobile Plans For Your Mobile

All talk time and SMS for use in Australia to Australian numbers. All data is for use in Australia. You can learn more about this company in our Boost Mobile review.

CHECK  BOOST MOBILE PLANS

 

Southern Phone

 

 

 

Postpaid | Month to month + 12 month contracts | Telstra Mobile Network 3G and 4G

Southern Phone are a well known, full service phone company brand based in New South Wales with some great .

With Southern Phone you’ll get :

  • A choice of month to month or 12 month agreements:
    Unusually, Southern Phone offer access to their plans as either 12 month contracts or, month to month agreements.
  • A choice of the Telstra Mobile 3G + 4G or Optus 3G + 4G Plus network:
    Southern Phone are one of the few Australian telcos who offer their customers a choice of the Optus or Telstra Mobile network.
  • Best for bundles:
    Picking up a SIM Only plan as well as a fixed broadband connection will get you a discount.

Southern Phone Month to Month Phone Plans (All Orange Plans on the Telstra Mobile Network)

Southern Phone 12 Months Phone Plans (All Orange Plans on the Telstra Mobile Network)

You can find out more about this company in our dedicated Southern phone review.

CHECK SOUTHERN PHONE SIM PLANS

 

 

More on these new SIM types

As we’ve said, a soft SIM is an entirely software based replacement for the classic SIM card. It’s an alternative to the eSIM. There are no plans that we are aware of to roll out soft SIMs at this time. In theory, it will do the same thing as any other SIM, it will allow users to connect to their network of choice, by selecting the carrier which they wish to use and entering in their details. No longer will users needs to replace the current physical SIM card in their device and wait to be ported to their next service provider. Switching providers will be automatic and instant, all done from within the device with only a few taps of your finger.

How a soft SIM might look in Apple's iOS

How these new SIMs will affect users

Consumers are the biggest winners from any of these changes in SIM technology. Being able to connect to a different network operator at the drop of a hat in real time, is great news for Australian consumers which are calling out for more choice and freedom in the mobile plans which they use.

While in recent years in Australia consumers have been lucky to receive much more choice thanks to the introduction of MVNOs entering the telecom industry, allowing them to switch providers if they find a better deal, still, for the most part, the telcos hold all of the cards. Apple understands this which is why they are so heavily investing in this type of future-thinking technology. A happy consumer is more likely to be loyal to a brand, which puts them in a good position in the future should they also enter the Australian telecommunications market as an MVNO themselves.

How these new SIMs will affect phone manufacturers

Apple, Samsung and Google have for a long time wanted to reduce their reliance on the telecom operators, for when it comes to both distribution of their devices and the plans which are associated with their devices. In recent years, all three companies have slowly started to move more in the direction of selling their own manufactured devices online, as in the case of Google and their Nexus smartphone. It’s pretty obvious that they are doing this as they want more control and a much larger share of the telecom industry.

While this sounds like good news for consumers, we could end up in the future with a situation where the smartphone manufacturer controls the device which we use, the MVNO we use and the network which we connect to. Apple is a large company which is constantly making consumers lives easier with the advancement of new technologies which they introduce via their innovative products. However, we could all end up with a situation where we are locked into their eco-system ultimately and that includes the telco cellular coverage aspect of the customer experience.

How the phone companies might feel about it

Telcos for the most part will be the biggest losers from the large scale roll-out of soft SIM technologies. Removing all the power from them and putting it back in the hands of consumers will no doubt have a large effect on the telecommunication companies earnings, which will not make them happy at all.

Consumers who are not fans of the large smartphone manufacturers Apple and Samsung might find themselves in a future situation where they will have to purchase these companies products to take advantage of soft SIM technologies, if it becomes an industry standard and if smaller mobile phone manufacturers don’t offer the same range of functionality features.

What could the world look like in a few years when everyone has one of these new SIMs?

The traditional physical SIM card will continue to exist along with the soft SIM, but as with all traditional technologies, newer advancements will always offer better features, choice and functionality. Australian consumers will be much better off, allowing in real time to select the current best SIM only or prepaid deal for them, based on their real-time usage. Postpaid mobile phone contracts will no doubt go the way of the dodo, as there will be no need to be locked into long-term two-year contracts.

Being able to buy the latest smartphones outright and direct from the manufacturer, with the ability to switch network providers in real time using soft SIM technology, users will be able to take advantage of promotions and special deals on the fly.

Reprogramable SIMs beat eSIMs and Soft SIMs

This situation is not unique. Telco is an industry beset with technology and acronyms. Similarly, 4G and LTE are used interchangeably when they are different things.

A lack of agreed standards always disadvantages any industry. Trains with different gauges in different Australian states were more expensive to produce ( less mass production was possible and freight had to be unloaded at the state line and repacked to have it continue on its journey.) This was obviously more expensive as a transport cost – an expense which would have eventually been passed on to users.

When it comes to standards for Embedded and Soft SIMs, there are so many credible players with invested interests in the status quo, it’s turned in to a ‘Game of phones.’ ( With apologies to Virgin Mobile who coined that phrase for a game 2 years ago. ) It seems that Samsung, Apple and ( potentially ) a consortium of other OEMs have established reprogrammable SIMs as a way to start the avalanche of movement towards much more flexible, potentially ultimately entirely soft SIMs.

The reprogrammable SIMs they’re trialing now are probably worse for the phone companies than they realise. They can hold two SIM profiles at once. This removes coverage as a differentiator. Shortly, people will be able to use a cheap Vodafone connection when they are in town and a more expensive Telstra connection when they’re out in the bush. Apple have thrown all the cards in the air again. Let’s see where they land.

 

Sources : 

 

 

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.