Slot free: What is eSIM and how is it helpful?

Published: January 20, 2020 12:22 AM

At present, Airtel and Reliance Jio offer eSIMs, that too only for iPhone users.

ericsson, sim cardEmbedded SIM or eSIM is a standardised SIM chip.

Ericsson, last week, announced that it had launched eSIM technology. Quoting various research and studies it highlighted that embedded SIM market shall grow manifold as it has use-cases in connected devices, and for operator portability. Ericsson is not the only company betting on eSIM. It is reported that the new Samsung flagship S20 may also feature eSIM. While Apple introduced eSIM support in Watch 3 and second-generation iPad Pro devices in October 2017, Google announced its Pixel phones featuring eSIM, Apple and Microsoft followed this with eSIM for iPhone XS and Windows 10, respectively.

What is eSIM?

Embedded SIM or eSIM is a standardised SIM chip. It eliminates the need for companies to include a SIM card slot, as the chip is programmable and can be set to any of the network operators. Two, one does not need to switch sim cards once they change an operator as the chip can be programmed for the other operator. eSIMs can also accommodate multiple accounts at once, but, at present, this is not possible.

How is it helpful?

Although sim sizes have decreased using less and less space on the phone, even the current slots take up space. An eSIM, on the other hand, is just a chip on the board and will eliminate the need for a sim slot. More important, it is beneficial for small devices, say a watch or speakers. Apple Watch, for instance, comes with an eSIM allowing to have its ecosystem if the user wishes. More important, one can programme both, sim in the iPhone with the watch, and take advantage of data plans sans a device connection.

As devices get smaller eSIMs can serve a purpose, primarily, as there is expected to be a multiplicity of devices. Home security and locks can be configured to a separate service, then the regular WiFi, for instance, ensuring better security.

Is it available in India?

At present, Airtel and Reliance Jio offer eSIMs, that too only for iPhone users. But as more phones become eSIM compatible operators will have no choice but to provide eSIMs. For this, though the lower end phones need to sport the technology or people need to be connected with more devices. As 5G takes over and there is a proliferation of devices, eSIMs are going to gain currency.

There is some scepticism amongst network regarding use of technology, as eSIMs make portability less of a hassle and allow people to carry multiple SIMs, many fear a loss in revenues. So, unless there isn’t the adoption of more devices—devices per person need to increase—they would not be enthused to introduce the technology. With enough devices, companies will be able to bundle services in a better manner.

What about cars?

As far as connected technology, cars will benefit the most. And, they require eSIM more than any of the other related devices. While Indian vehicles still do not have such technology, the EU has asked all cars by 2018 to have an eSIM for emergency services. This will ensure calls to operators. Plus, navigation and other services can also be run using eSIM. And as companies look for autonomous vehicles, it will also help cars interact better with intelligent traffic systems.

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