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MTN subscribers now get eSIM support on some smartphones

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MTN has introduced embedded SIM (eSIM) capability for selected Samsung and iPhone devices.

eSIM is a digital SIM that allows users to activate their cellular plan from a carrier without having to use a physical nano-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.

The new technology is becoming widely adopted in many smartphones across the globe, with ICT experts saying the current SIM card may be obsolete in the next decade, as more wearables, tablets, laptops and mobile phones use the next evolution of the SIM.

MTN says it is the first mobile network operator in SA to support eSIM capability for contract phone subscribers, available on eight eSIM-capable Samsung phones, as well as seven new iPhones.

Until now, MTN and Vodacom have only supported wearable devices with eSIMs.

MTN launched its eSIM support capability last year with the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Vodacom introduced its eSIM capability for the same device at the beginning of this year.

MTN says it is now significantly upscaling this game-changing technology to other devices.

Last year, data-only service provider Rain partneredwith Truphone to launch an eSIM service.

“SIM cards have been present in devices since the nineties and we all got so used to them, despite their relative inconvenience,” says MTN SA executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan.

“The future is one where these will be embedded in far more devices and MTN is ensuring our customers are not left behind as this technology advances forward at a rapid rate.”

Some of the devices that support MTN’s eSIM are: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy S20, Samsung Galaxy S20+, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Sabelo Dlamini, senior research and consulting manager at IDC, told ITWeb in a previous interview that eSIM technology is a game-changer in cellular connectivity, and will eventually become adopted across all phones, with the capability expected to become mainstream within the next five years or so.

“eSIM technology has been in existence for some time now, but it’s the adoption that has been slow. With the increased adoption of Internet of things (IOT), this has been on the upward trend, driven by reduced SIM card administration process, enhanced international roaming experience and the convenience of moving between operators,” said Dlamini.

Unlike traditional SIM cards which are locked to their networks, eSIM enables the adoption of any supporting network by downloading settings over-the-air, allowing multiple SIM profiles on a single device, and swapping between operators via the device’s software settings, with the option to use one or several mobile numbers.

The eSim is not only built into smartphones, but also wearable devices at the point of manufacture.

Customers are then able to sync their wearables to other mobile devices, sharing the same number and contract value, whereby they can send and receive messages, notifications and calls on their eSIM wearable even when their mobile device isn’t within range.

Dr Charley Lewis, speaking to ITWeb in November 2019 in his capacity as an independent ICT analyst and researcher, before he became an ICASA councillor this year, said while it initially stared with high-end phones, eSIM will move into mid-range and eventually low-end smartphones.

However, the move to eSIM won’t do away with the regulatory and security processes associated with the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act, it will merely streamline it.

“The move to embedded SIM technology is a no-brainer. The current SIM was a clunky solution to a security and memory challenge back in the days when mobile phones were the size of bricks, and has surely outlived its usefulness in the same way that rotary dial wheels have come and gone on handsets,” he noted.

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