Telstra Opens up eSIM to MVNOs

Telstra Opens up eSIM to MVNOs

MVNOs on the Telstra network will soon get eSIM capabilities

Telstra has announced that Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) reselling its network will have access to eSIM technology in the coming months. This will make Telstra the first major telco in Australia to allow smaller telcos offer eSIM plans.

Since entering the Australian market in 2017, eSIM technology has had the potential to revolutionize the market significantly. As a result, the major telcos seemed to want the technology to themselves, at least for a while.

We reported in 2018 that the ACCC expressed concerns over the fact that MVNOs could not offer eSIM plans to their customers. While the ACCC chose not to force the major telcos into opening the eSIM doors at that time, their concerns might have sped up Telstra’s latest decision to wholesale eSIM activation to MVNOs.

What is an eSIM?

Your traditional SIM card has evolved over the years, both in size and network capabilities. Remember those huge mini SIM cards that were your only option just a few years ago, and then newer nano SIM cards that are so tiny in comparison.

Now, eSIM technology is the latest in that SIM card evolution. While traditional SIM cardsare physical, eSIMs are digital SIMs that activate and connect you to a network without ever having to plug in an actual, physical SIM card.

SIM evolution

SIM evolution. Source.

The eSIM is built into the device, so when you’re ready to activate an eSIM plan, the entire process is online. In most cases, you typically scan a QR code to download your plan profile, activate your plan and start making use of its inclusions.

Benefits of an eSIM

We’ve already mentioned one key benefit of the eSIM – not having to deal with a physical SIM card. Not only does this eliminate the inconvenience of having to plug in and unplug a phsysical SIM card, it also eliminates the need to have a SIM card shipped whenever you’re interested in a new telco and plan. That means no more having to wait a couple of days for the post before making use of your plan.

And if you usually walk in to a store to get a SIM card, then you don’t have to anymore, thanks to eSIM being entirely digital.

Another benefit of the eSIM is that it allows you have 2 different phone numbers on the same device. Smartphones that have eSIM technology are still being manufactured with a physical SIM card slot. This will allow you purchase an eSIM plan for one phone number, and then another plan for your physical SIM card with its separate phone number.

But yet the most beneficial advantage of the eSIM is that it allows you switch telcos more easily. While you mak be on a plan that seems great today, there might be a better plan from a different telco tomorrow. Switching would require a waiting period for processing and shipping if all you have is a phone with a physical SIM slot or a telco without eSIM capabilities. But with an eSIM, switching would take place in a matter of minutes.

Final words – Why would Telstra open up eSIM to MVNOs?

The customer’s major benefit of eSIM technology is the telco’s major challenge. While the customer would love to be able to switch to whichever telco has the best deal whenever they want, telcos don’t want that because it means they can lose their customers at anytime. As a result, eSIM adoption has been a bit slow. Early eSIM plans were mostly for wearables like smartwatches, along with some other devices like tablets. Such plans didn’t really call for MVNOs — not until smartphones with eSIM technology began emerging.

With eSIM plans now available for smartphones, and so many smartphones now eSIM-capable, it was only a matter of time until telcos would have to allow MVNOs serve customers with eSIM phones. Add to that the ACCC’s concern over the matter, and you’ll get a huge telco like Telstra to change its eSIM policy.

Further, Telstra is facing a lot of competition in their wholesale network market lately. We’ve seen some MVNOs like Aussie Broadband and Macquarie Telecom, which were reselling Telstra’s network, jump ship to Optus. The main reason for that is that Optus now resells its 5G network to MVNOs, while Telstra is still trying to keep 5G technology to itself.

So with Telstra’s latest eSIM announcement, it becomes the only major telco to offer eSIM technology to MVNOs, while Optus MVNOs still do not have access to eSIM. However, Telstra still has not allowed its MVNOs access its 5G network, so we will have to watch and see if this latest move makes the telco any more attractive to MVNOs.


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.