26 May 2023

e-SIM: The Future Of Telecommunications

e-SIM Card Packaging
e-SIM download

How do you connect to a network with an e-SIM? Do you have to put anything in your phone? How does an e-SIM even work? Are they more sustainable than a regular SIM? If you’re asking it, we want to answer it – so here is everything you need to know about the e-SIM.


When Did They Come Onto The Market?

e-SIMs were introduced as a concept when Apple was given a patent in 2011 to create their own MVNO. Implanting the new ‘connector’ into devices allowed Apple to offer their customers a range of networks that had collaborated with Apple, to be featured as part of the Quick Start network process on new devices. The ‘connector’ is an embedded chip in Apple’s latest products, it is inserted into the device in the manufacturing process and allows for remote telecom connection which is also available not only in Apple smartphones but also in their wearables. In other words, it’s an e-SIM. Along with Apple, other companies such as Samsung and Huawei have also created products with e-SIMs implanted in their devices – this means that Apple no longer has a monopoly on remote network connectivity, and networks aren’t restricted by the circulation, sales and distribution of Apple products in order to reach new customers. Increasing the range of the IoT and allowing consumers to have complete control over their service and data plans also reduces the size of a device and makes more space available for a larger battery, which would increase the productivity of devices as well as their capabilities.


What Does The e-SIM Market Look Like?

By the end of 2025 it is estimated that there will be 3.4 billion e-SIM smartphone connections globally. This is going to revolutionize the Internet of Things and M2M (Machine 2 Machine) network, allowing for greater connection between devices, not to mention the capabilities of items like smart watches or tablets. In 2020 alone there were 110 individual device models available on the global market that had an e-SIM embedded, with mobile devices leading. This number will only increase as the technology becomes more understood, cheap to produce and available to companies.


The e-SIM market in North America is expected to grow with a CAGR of 8.5% until 2030 when the estimated market value is forecasted to reach $15,464.0 million. In 2022 the global market was valued at $8066.4 million and in 2021 alone the global market size of e-SIMs was $7.3 billion. Currently the largest global consumers of e-SIMs are North America and Europe with a growing market in Asia.


Which Operators Are Offering e-SIMs?

Currently not all networks are offering e-SIMs as an option to their customers. There are 6 operators offering them in the UK, (O2, EE, Vodafone, Lyca Mobile, 3 and Virgin) and in the US there are 22, (AT&T, 3, Boost Mobile, Caroline West Wireless, Cellcom, Credo Mobile, Cricket, C Spire, FirstNet, H2O Wireless, Nex-Tech Wireless, PureTalk, Red Pocket, Spectrum Mobile, Straight Talk, Strata Networks, T-Mobile USA, Tracfone, UScellular, Verizon Wireless, Xinifity Mobile). The amount of operators offering e-SIMs is not only dependent on the technological advances of mobile devices but also the understanding of security within this new network option. 

Security of personal and big data is a huge issue when it comes to new technology, especially when all the personal information is stored in a chip which cannot be removed from a device. There are also concerns about tracking – if someone is worried that they are being followed via their SIM then at the moment they can just take it out and replace it with a new one. If they are being tracked via their e-SIM the process becomes a lot more complicated and could cause a lot of issues regarding not only privacy but also the physical safety of users.


How To Activate Your e-SIM

The link from customer to network with the e-SIM is via a QR code, the operator’s website or app which connects to the user’s account. Users can go into their account and change from a SIM only membership to an e-SIM which can be implemented immediately so long as their device is compatible. As well as downloading to their own phone, users can change other devices from a SIM to an e-SIM plan. Either via the app or website a user can scan the QR code with the device whose plan they want to change and this will lead them through the process of changing their plan from SIM to a e-SIM. Due to an e-SIM being not only embedded but also rewritable, a customer can easily change between networks and store up to five different ones on the e-SIM. The ability to change easily between operators and store different options on the same device is giving the consumer the power to choose, at the click of a button, the network that works best for them at that moment in time. This is especially useful if the individual is traveling or needs to move between areas. 


Do You Still Need Packaging?

Although technically the transfer from SIM to e-SIM and from one MVNO to another can be done completely remotely via apps and websites, for operators who want to sell their network in-store and have the converter as a physical QR code, there is still a need for packaging. As we have already discussed on this blog, packaging is a powerful sales and marketing tool – not only because it encapsulates your brand and appeals to potential customers before they’ve even considered buying the product; but also because it connects your customer to your brand and is the first physical interaction. Your packaging is a way to include instruction, brand information, rates, sustainability credentials and anything else that is important for your image and your product. e-SIM packaging won’t need to include a SIM PIN or a physical SIM card – but it will need to include other things that are just as important.


Are e-SIMs More Sustainable?

Overall another feather in the cap of e-SIMs is that they are considered more sustainable. They are not only able to be used without any additional plastic being circulated, they also don’t necessarily require any physical shipping device to be activated. If they do – for example if operators are selling them in-store – then they just need to be a QR code printed on a piece of card. And color doesn’t even necessarily need to be used, meaning that algae inks could be implemented, (for more information on algae inks check out the blog post Changing Tides: Algae Ink on the BPAK blog).


Lower costs for production, manufacturing and implementation mean lower costs for customers to purchase the plans. e-SIMs reduce the carbon footprint of the company who is selling them, the consumer who purchases a plan on the operator’s network – and they also have the potential to lower the emissions of the entire mobile and telecommunications industry. Something which should not be overlooked considering that in 2021 SIM cards alone accounted for 560,000 tons of CO2.


Although SIM cards have been shrinking in size over the years; the majority are still sold on a credit card sized piece of plastic that cannot be reused, recycled or biodegraded. Due to the e-SIM being implanted into the mobile device at the time of manufacturing, there will be no more non-biodegradable SIM cards that end up in landfills, there will be huge cuts in transportation emissions and costs; there will also be a major saving of raw materials which are needed to make the SIM card in the first place.


In Conclusion

e-SIMs are not going to have a monopoly on the market for some time as people with older devices wait to catch up with latest releases that have the technology for the e-SIM. So SIM vendors and operators still offering only SIM deals do not need to panic just yet! However, the e-SIM provides a lot of options that SIMs do not, and as the consumer searches for easier and cheaper options, e-SIMs will start to gain traction with the mainstream markets – especially as they give the user more power.