Mint Primer: Goodbye SIM, hello e-SIM: Time to make a switch? | Mint

Mint Primer: Goodbye SIM, hello e-SIM: Time to make a switch?

An e-SIM is embedded into a device, be it a smartphone, smartwatch or, in the near future, even laptops, as part of a chip.
An e-SIM is embedded into a device, be it a smartphone, smartwatch or, in the near future, even laptops, as part of a chip.

Summary

  • Embedded SIM, or e-SIM is a digital copy of a physical SIM card

NEW DELHI : E-SIMs or embedded SIMs will soon replace those fiddly physical SIMs in smartphones and other devices. Airtel’s top boss Gopal Vittal has urged subscribers to move to e-SIMs. But what exactly are they, how do they work, and what does it mean for us?

What’s the technology behind e-SIMs?

Embedded SIM, or e-SIM is a digital copy of a physical SIM card. A SIM, which stands for subscriber identity module, is a smart card with a microchip. While a physical SIM can be inserted into and removed from a phone, an e-SIM is embedded into a device, be it a smartphone, smartwatch or, in the near future, even laptops, as part of a chip. It allows the device to be permanently connected with a telecom service provider’s network, therefore eliminating the need for a physical SIM. Since it is a digital copy of a physical SIM card, the same information that resides on a physical SIM can be stored in the e-SIM.

What are the benefits of moving to e-SIM?

With e-SIM, customers will no longer have to be dependent on a physical SIM card. No more fiddling about with multiple tiny cards. Even when users want to change their phone or operator, they can easily transfer the e-SIM to their new mobile phone or to a new operator, digitally. In case a customer needs, they can use multiple mobile numbers on a single e-SIM. The key benefit here is that in case a customer’s device gets stolen, it will be that much harder for criminals to get rid of the e-SIM, since it is part of the chipset within the hardware of the phone. This will also make a lost phone easier to track.

Which telcos offer e-SIMs in India and globally?

In India, all carriers offer e-SIMs. But since they require devices that are e-SIM enabled, the uptake has been slow. Globally, many carriers and smartphone brands provide e-SIMs. Apple introduced them with the XR/XS series. With the iPhone 15 it has launched e-SIM-only models in the US. Elsewhere, new iPhones have a dual physical and e-SIM option.

How does it benefit telcos and businesses?

Telecom operators save on the hardware and distribution cost of physical SIMs. They can push software updates over the air and enable better quality of service. E-SIMs allow seamless connectivity across IoT devices, thus making network mapping and management much easier. For handset makers, removing the physical SIM slots gives room for other components in the device, such as larger RAM, higher GPU or storage. For businesses, e-SIMs provide better security than physical ones which can be cloned.

Why are e-SIMs becoming popular?

E-SIMs have been around for more than a decade, but are not the primary mode of getting a mobile number from a telco in India. With the growing popularity of smartwatches and gadgets that may need to be connected to a smartphone, e-SIMs have become more commonplace. Earlier this week Bharti Airtel’s chief executive officer Gopal Vittal asked all of Airtel’s 374 million-plus subscribers to move to e-SIMs. Driven by tech majors like Apple, the deployment of e-SIMs is set to rise in the years to come.

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