An introduction to eSIM technology

e-sim technology

eSIM or embedded SIM is a new terminology in the telecom world and a part of the SIM Card evolution making headway after the Nano-SIM, which was launched in 2012. The technology was released in 2016 with rollouts in the US and Europe. It was also introduced in Africa in the recent few months.

eSIM technology is embedded into the smartphone along with its own software and can only be activated remotely by telcos. This new feature will present new revenue opportunities and will allow subscribers to switch between telcos seamlessly, especially when traveling.

Nigerian Telcos e-SIM rollout and local regulations

MTN Nigeria launched a one-day trial in their HQ in Lagos for the e-SIM technology in partnership with Ericsson on July 15, 2020. However, the Nigerian Communication Commission “NCC” released a permission to MTN and 9mobile to conduct a one-year trial for 5,000 subscribers within the country while adhering to the SIM registration process being regulated by the NCC. “The trial is in line with the Commission’s forward-looking regulatory approach to ensure Nigeria’s telecoms ecosystem is in tandem with global best practices”, saidExecutive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta.

The trial of the e-SIM in Nigeria – more specifically Lagos, the economic capital – has not been promising so far. Some relate this to the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the low adoption rate of compatible smartphones in the country. However, MTN is still only a few months away from the trial launch date and have almost 8 months to complete this period with the hope of better results.

Market adoption of the e-SIM technology

According to a 2018  Statista report, smartphone ownership is increasing in sub-Saharan African countries, especially in South Africa (60%), Kenya (41%), and Nigeria (39%). Still, this is the first launch in West Africa.

In Q1 Vodacom launched the e-SIM technology in its South African operation which has been followed by MTN in the same market.

Safaricom Kenya published an Expression of Interest (EOI) on November 13, 2019, to acquire a partner to deploy the e-SIM technology with plans to launch in 2021.

Telcos are not considering this new technology as a priority for the time being, as companies in the African continent are aware that market penetration rates for smartphones with the ability to adopt the e-SIM feature are very minimal whilst normal feature phones still have the bigger portion of the market.

Article Written by Mr. Hussein Taki, Business Development Director at Mondia Group.