Will the e-SIM Really Benefit the End-User?


When it comes to new technology, whether you like it or not you have to move with the flow if you want to maintain your level of satisfaction with your device. The next phone technology is the eSIM, which will supersede the current SIM that you use in your phone now. The eSIM, as a virtual SIM card, will mean you, the user, will not need to change the SIM card every time you change your mobile virtual network operator. It will just be the case of going online and selecting the MVNO that best suits your needs. Or more likely you will be bombarded with texts reminding you of the deals from rival mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

It seems that the eSIM is quite likely to become a reality, as it has already been given the go ahead by the GSMA. This is the most important global association for mobile devices, operators and makers. Apple and Samsung are well into the planning stages of incorporating this new chip technology into their new products as they are rolled out. It will affect all new devices, such as smart phones, tablets, wristbands and smart watches. At this stage no one is really certain what the relationship is going to be between the telcos and this new technology. It may depend on what they negotiate with the phone manufacturers.

At the moment, you have two options for using a phone. The first is to buy an unlocked phone of your choice and then choose your telco or MVNO. The second option is to buy a phone from a telco and pay for it over time. Currently both options require a commitment to the MVNO of your choice. If you have an unlocked phone you can join two different telcos and put into your phone whichever SIM you choose, whenever you want. This is a great advancement on the first days of mobile phones in the late 1990s, where you bought a phone from the telco and it couldn’t be used with any other service provider. It was certainly of no use when going overseas until global roaming was later introduced at a substantial cost to the purchaser.

Advantages of Unlocked Phones Versus eSIMs

The biggest development for phone users was when phone manufacturers started to sell unlocked phones and the willingness of telcos to supply a SIM card without the need to buy one of their phones. Hand in hand with these more flexible opportunities, telcos and phone manufacturers have had to work out how to attract subscribers and profits from each other. This is a worldwide obsession which never necessarily favours the end-user!

As with all product manufacturers and service providers, each wants to increase the bottom line as much as possible, keeping customers minimally satisfied so they will continue with their purchases. Telcos in Australia have tried all sorts of methods to keep their customer base, like Optus’ EPL deals. In the end, users didn’t like the monopoly developed by Optus, which shows how subscribers do have a say in what’s on offer. There is no disputing that.

The main advantage theoretically of an e-SIM is that customers will be able to quickly change their telco at any time without a new physical card from a company. Supposedly, the new eSIM will be compatible with all telecom operators. This could mean substantial savings for the avid traveller or business persons as well as local users. When arriving in a new country the person will be able to go online and choose whatever MVNO fits their requirements. No need to buy a new SIM or use global roaming. In fact, it seems that as soon as you switch on your phone after getting off the plane because of the presence of an eSIM you will be bombarded with countless text messages from MVNOs offering you phone and data deals, just leaving you the option of choosing one that suits your needs, at least for the time you are in that country.

Disadvantages of the eSIM

It might not necessarily be good news for all end users, depending on exactly how free the eSIM will turn out to be. Some critics think it will be like returning to the old locked phone system, meaning the eSIM won’t turn out to be as flexible as expected. This will really depend on precisely what the GSMA requirements and rules are for global telecom operators.

  • With the current unlocked phone arrangement, when a phone ceases to work the user can take out the SIM card and put it into a new phone. This can’t happen with an eSIM enabled phone.
  • Security is another issue, as some critics believe that it will be easier for hackers to get into the cloud storage apparatus that will be the mainstay of the eSIM technology. There have been far too many cases of data theft so far, let alone the possibilities of new avenues occurring with the eSIM.
  • The cost of the rollout of the eSIM will rest heavily on the purchaser who will like it or not need to purchase an eSIM phone.
  • The new eSIM can’t takeover instantly as it takes time to manufacture new eSIM enabled phones but people will need to stay connected throughout the process and nothing has been said about how this will happen.


There have been many developments in the smart phone over the last few years culminating in the device being used for live streaming of music and TV and crystal clear audio but changes how we connect has been with us for a very long time. A SIM card has become a way of life. It has even grown smaller and many phones have slots for 2 SIMs, meaning you can belong to more than one provider, switching from one to another as required.

People don’t always like change as they feel they are going to lose out in some way as they grapple with the new technology. Telcos and phone manufacturers will no doubt try to take advantage of consumer vulnerability and aggressively market the new eSIM phones to grab at profits while they can.


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.