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SA’s eSIM market competition intensifies with Telkom entry

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 25 Aug 2021

Telkom Mobile has become the latest local telco to introduce embedded subscriber identity module (eSIM) support for its customers.

eSIM is a digital SIM that allows users to activate their tariff plan from a carrier without having to use a physical SIM. It uses a small chip to authenticate a user’s identity with their carrier, as part of a global specification developed by telecoms trade body, the GSM Association.

Embedded into the hardware of a smartphone device, the eSIM allows consumers to store multiple operator profiles on one mobile device simultaneously, and switch between them remotely, though only one profile can be used at a time.

“Historically, most of our customers have used traditional card SIMs. These enable mobile network operators (MNOs) to identify a user and then to authenticate that the user is serviced by that MNO,” explains Andrew Dawson, executive: product portfolio management at Telkom.

“Going forward, Telkom will support eSIM-enabled handsets. We will enable eSIM provisioning, a specification which allows consumers to activate the SIM embedded in their phone.”

Embedded SIM cards have already been included in several iOS and Android devices across the globe.

Locally, MTN launched its eSIM support capability in 2019 with the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and Vodacom introduced its eSIM capability for the same device at the beginning of 2020.

MTN later expanded the eSIM capability to some of its smartphone devices.

For the launch phase, Telkom says it will only support eSIM-enabled smartphones, which include devices from Apple (XS / XR / 11 / 12 and Apple iPad seventh generation and higher), Huawei (40 / 40 Pro / 40 Pro+ and P40 / P40 Pro / P40 Pro+) and Samsung (Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Z Fold2).

Making way for the new

ICT experts believe the eSIM will become a game-changer in phone connectivity, with the current SIM card expected to become obsolete in the next decade.

According to Grand View Research, the global eSIM market was valued at $8.03 billion in 2019, and was expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 15.8% from 2020 to 2027.

The rapid increase in the number of internet of things connected devices in different end-use verticals, such as automotive, consumer electronics, and energy and utilities, is propelling the eSIM market growth across the globe.

An eSIM-enabled device can have up to eight different profiles installed and enables customers to switch between networks more easily if they wish to temporarily change to another network.

Telkom says it will offer customers an eSIM voucher pack, which will contain a QR code with the necessary steps to install an eSIM profile on any eSIM-enabled handset.

“Most customers will be able to have more than one SIM card − a dual SIM setup, as most eSIM-enabled devices will still have a physical SIM slot available. Since eSIMs are embedded in devices, users can’t lose their SIMs and these eSIMs are more reliable than traditional physical SIM cards,” adds Dawson.

“eSIMs are an enhancement of Telkom’s SIM offering and no changes have been made to the provisioning process of mobile services for eSIM services. When provisioning mobile services with an eSIM, one must follow the normal activation process to activate a mobile service on an eSIM.”