Telcos battle smartphone brands over e-SIM: what, why and all the other details
What is eSIM
An e-SIM is an embedded SIM card built into a smartphone. It eliminates the need for a physical SIM card, although that’s exactly how it works. It is also important that your service provider offers e-SIM services. In India, Airtel is the first telco to offer e-SIM facility.
What are the advantages of e-SIM
An e-SIM helps save space and make the battery in a smartphone thinner. It is especially suitable for wearable devices such as smart watches. It can be disabled or enabled remotely by the network operator. There is no risk of damaging the SIM card.
Why smartphone companies do not want e-SIMs to be made mandatory
Smartphone brands claim that any move to make e-SIMs compulsory will increase the manufacturing costs of mid-range smartphones (Rs 10,000-20,000), which contribute around 50% of the volume. They claim that e-SIMs in mobiles require product design change and would in turn lead to escalation of costs.
Why telcos need e-SIMs
Telecom operators want all devices priced at Rs 10,000 and above to have e-SIMs. Telcos have approached the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to require handset makers to adopt e-SIMs. They point out that the price of SIM cards has risen 4-5 times due to semiconductor shortages and hoarding by some players
What do smartphone brands have to say on telecom companies’ concern
Smartphone brands have termed telcos’ demand as an “exaggeration”, claiming that the situation in the semiconductor space has been improving and normalcy can be expected in the next six to nine months. In a letter, seen by ET, ICEA told the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) that the cost of a SIM is marginal and even if the cost of the SIM increases five times, still in comparison, the cost of introduction of the e-SIM feature in mobile phones will be very high in terms of its implementation and design.” The letter further says that the e-SIM feature has its own pros and cons, which can be suitably adapted at the discretion of the mobile handset manufacturing industry.
Telecom companies letter to DoT
Telecom companies too have sent a letter to DoT about the same. “We believe that introduction of eSIM in this price range of handsets will shave off a reasonable quantity of physical SIM cards from India and all telcos stand to benefit from the same,” said COAI in the letter to DoT. “The E-SIM will also reduce the SIM wastage on account of MNP (mobile number portability), without compromising on the flexibility of MNP, which shall continue to be with the end customer,” the letter adds
Which smartphones support e-SIM in India?
Currently, smartphones that support e-SIM in India include high-end phones from Apple, Samsung and Google. All iPhones released in 2018 and later support e-SIM. Samsung’s Galaxy S20 series, Galaxy S21 series, Galaxy S22 series and its foldable phones (Fold and Flip series) all support e-SIM. Google Pixel 3 and later Pixel phones come with an e-SIM.
Telcos that support and do not support e-SIM in India
Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio offer e-SIM services in India. However, MTNL and BSNL do not support e-SIM services.