KT, SK Telecom and LG Uplus announced plans to launch eSIM subscription models after the government in South Korea gave the final nod to implement eSIMs last December, but KT is the first to announce an actual date and method. Until now, eSIM service was available only to short-term foreign visitors to South Korea. Issuing an eSIM card costs two-thousand-750 won, much cheaper than the seven-thousand-700 won price tag for USIM cards. esim south korea
From Sept. 1, consumers can select and open local telecommunication companies’ phone plans with an eSIM, meaning there would be no need to purchase a local SIM card to save data charges when traveling abroad. eSIMs will also allow phone users to use two different numbers on one device.
While most mobile phones currently use USIM cards linked to one phone number inserted into the device, eSIM-compatible devices display two telecommunications networks and allow users to select which number to use when making calls.
KT announced on Sunday that it will introduce its 5G LTE Dual Number plan, which provides 1 gigabyte of data for the eSIM telephone number for an additional 8,800 won ($6.56) per month, aimed at attracting customers who want to use their existing SIMs and the new eSIM cards at the same time.
SK Telecom and LG U+ have yet to release any subscription models.
The introduction of eSIMs is expected to be a game-changer in the telecommunications market because eSIMs not only allow customers to choose a differently-priced subscription model but also a different carrier altogether. So, an SK Telecom user could download an eSIM from KT on their phone and use the second number for a cheaper rate.
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For domestic consumers, the concept of eSIMs was a pie in the sky for a long time. After Apple introduced eSIMs for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR models in September 2019, more than 170 telecommunications companies in 69 countries, including the United States, have started operating eSIM services. Samsung Electronics, Apple and Huawei have made phones that support eSIMs for export since 2020.
But in Korea, opposition from telecommunications companies had been a stumbling block. Currently, SIM cards are sold at 7,700 to 8,800 won a piece, but eSIMs can be downloaded for 2,750 won, a third of the price. Telecommunications companies saw the cheaper selling price of eSIMs as a disadvantage.
According to the telecommunications industry, combined sales of SIMs from the three major companies last year amounted to more than 20 billion won.
In particular, eSIMs were an unwelcome addition for the major telecommunications companies in that if they were to be allowed, consumers from the three carriers would be more likely to open a second number with other carriers or mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), otherwise known as thrifty phones.
The government stepped in last year as consumers’ demand for eSIMs grew stronger, and the Ministry of Science and ICT changed regulations to allow eSIMS starting this September.
“eSIMs are important in terms of consumer convenience and its economic effect,” said Hong Jin-bae, head of network policy at the Science Ministry while announcing the approval of the 5G mid-rate plan last month. “This will serve as an opportunity for consumers to switch not only between the three major telecommunications companies but also MVNOs.”
People who have bought a more recent phone that supports eSIMs will be eligible to use them. Apple supports eSIMs in all products from the iPhone XS series, so users of iPhone models released after 2018 will be able to use the eSIM service immediately from September. For Samsung Electronics products, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 models that were released in August support eSIMs.
To prevent the eSIM service from being used illegally, including in burner phones, customers can only sign up for the eSIM service under one name per device.
At the three major telecommunications companies, unlimited data plans start at 80,000 won; but for budget phones, unlimited data is provided at around 20,000 won.
An official of the science and ICT ministry said the government expects the service will promote competition among mobile operators and lessen households’ communication expenses. esim south korea