Led by Samsung and Apple iPhone, eSIM is one of the fastest-growing parts of the 4G / 5G handset world today. However, there remain pockets of resistance to eSIM tech in parts of Asia and elsewhere.
Propelled by North America initially and by India in later years, eSIM-enabled smartphones will reduce friction for smartphone customers looking to enable their devices. esim future
An eSIM (“Embedded Subscriber Identification Module”) is a programmable SIM card that is embedded inside a device and can be connected to any mobile network. Thought of as a virtual SIM card, it is a technology that has been quietly progressing, yet is nothing new. In fact, Apple have been backing this technology since 2014, first included in the iPad Air 2.
However, it took until September 2018 for Apple to turn on support for eSIM technology. This, in turn, caused eSIM mobile network operator support to skyrocket globally. iOS 12.1 kick-started a rapid adoption process, from only 15 operators worldwide in November 2019 to over 100 in January 2020.
This expansion in eSIM support by mobile network operators aligns with a study by ABI Research. They predicted over 225 million eSIM-enabled handsets will be delivered by the end of 2020. It is not Apple alone, however, that is championing eSIM in its handsets. ABI Research attribute this propulsion largely to Samsung, who launched their S20 range of devices. Many other OEMs have also launched eSIM-enabled devices. Google’s Pixel range has supported eSIM since 2018, while Motorola’s Razr was released as eSIM-only – the first handset of its kind to do so.
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Interestingly, Huawei have yet to release true eSIM functionality in their smartphones. Similarly to Xiaomi, they have instead been offering a proprietary virtual SIM for several years. This is surprising considering GSMA survey results ranked eSIM-capability as highly as 5G; a focus for many OEMs.
Despite the growing number of eSIM-enabled handsets on the market, of the 2 billion mobile connections facilitated by the 108 mobile operators supporting eSIM, connectivity through eSIM is negligible.
Barriers and catalysts for eSIM growth
GSMA’s survey announced that 31% of European operators are waiting until 2022 or 2023 to launch eSIM services for smart phones.
Number of handsets available
In data supplied from Counter Point Research on global smartphone market share, Apple, Samsung and Huawei collectively captured 50% of the smartphone market in Q4 2019. At the time of publishing, only one of the three giants – Apple – offered eSIM-enabled handsets. This significantly reduced the opportunity for consumers to engage with eSIM technology. As of February 2020, Samsung launched their flagship S20 series. This has helped push eSIM to the forefront and will allow their users to finally get to grip with eSIM. As more consumers gain access to eSIM, we expect to see the adoption rate rise.
Support from operators asia esim
While 108 mobile network operators support eSIM around the world, this is only a fraction of the total number: 816. Lack of expertise and costly investment are just two of the reasons operators are reluctant to embrace eSIM services. This has resulted in limited support for potential eSIM consumers. This, combined with ingrained consumer buying behaviours (customers looking to their traditional network operator for service plans), results in fewer consumers being exposed to eSIM.
As a solution to this problem, a number of online eSIM stores have begun to offer global roaming eSIM plans. This allows consumers to make use of their virtual SIM card anywhere around the world. As awareness of these options increase, eSIM adoption will grow.