Monday, September 14, 2015

What is an e-SIM card?

Samsung just released the Gear S2 smartwatch and it says to work for making calls with an e-SIM card and Apple has been using this kind of cards on the iPads.

But what is an e-SIM?

The term "e-SIM" relates to a new standard being promoted by the GSMA - the association that represents network operators worldwide.

It will come in the form of an embedded SIM card, one that cannot and need not be removed from a device - something that consumer electronics manufacturers are also keen to adopt for connected items around the house as part of the Internet of Things.

The information on it will be compliant or rewritable by all operators, meaning a user can decide to change operator with a simple phone call. A new SIM will not be required, nor should there be any time delay in switching the e-SIM to its new purpose.

There will also be no physical swapping over required by the user.

Will it be the same SIM across manufacturers?

The basic premise is that the e-SIM will be completely standardised across manufacturers, although Apple has already got something similar - Apple SIM - that it uses in US iPads predominantly. EE also supports Apple SIM in the UK.

It is likely Apple would continue with its own version, although it would technically comply with GSMA standards.

How will it benefit you?

Not only does it give you the freedom to switch operator at the end of a contract without having to wait for a new SIM in the post or visit a mobile phone shop, you will be able to upgrade your account from a pay-as-you-go plan to a contracted one with the minimum of fuss.

It should also be easier to swap devices when you upgrade. Currently, you might switch from a device that requires a micro SIM to one that only supports nano SIMs. With an e-SIM, you need just register the new device.

Alternatively, if you are on a 3G plan with Orange, say, but want to upgrade to a 4G EE plan, that will be a doddle.

When will it be coming?
Unfortunately, as the e-SIM will require new hardware it is not expected to start to appear in mobile devices (other than the Apple SIM in iPads and Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch) for at least a year. The technical specifications haven't yet been finalised.

Maybe the iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7 could feature an e-SIM, therefore.

FT via pocket-lint

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