After months of speculation on the name, the colour, the features and the price, Apple’s September event finally revealed its latest line-up of handsets. Since then, there’s one feature in particular that has continued to generate further chatter in the telecoms industry: the eSIM.
The company introduced dual, virtual SIM capabilities to its new iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, says Mikael Schachne of BICS, allowing users to easily switch between different operators and plans thanks to virtual, re-writable profiles. So, no more waiting for a physical SIM to arrive in the post or heading to your nearest phone shop. And no long phone calls to obtain PAC codes.
This move was quickly followed by the announcement from UK MVNO Truphone that it is now offering global eSIM data plans for the new range of Apple smartphones. Accompanied by an app, the data plans allow Truphone subscribers to use a single bundle of pre-purchased data when they travel across 80 countries, thereby avoiding roaming charges. Cue a stream of others launching similar offers.
Subscribers in the EU already benefit from Roam Like at Home (RLAH), but Truphone’s move – which will likely be copycatted in the coming months – will allow a similar, low-cost roaming experience in places like the USA, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
As these developments demonstrate, there’s growing momentum behind the technology. We’re all mobile subscribers, and the benefits to us are obvious, but many readers are also mobile operators. What will eSIM’s impact be on the telco community?
eSIM and RLAH: Welcoming change
First, the fears. These include the fear felt by many operators that the rise of the eSIM will result in a fall in roaming revenues. In the future, subscribers with an eSIM-enabled handset may opt to switch to a virtual profile with a local operator when travelling abroad, instead of choosing a roaming package provided by their primary operator. Operators have already been hit with declining revenues from traditional voice and SMS services, and many are concerned that the eSIM will herald the loss of a crucial, profit-generating sector of their business.
There’s also the fear of ever-more intense competition among operators. The ability to switch almost instantly between operators, some believe, will further erode subscriber loyalty and increase churn. Consumers will be easily lured away by lower-cost subscription plans, many offered by MVNOs who don’t have to manage the kind of overheads traditional players do.
Fear of change is natural in any industry, especially one which seems to be developing and diversifying at such a dizzying pace. But change is also inevitable, and operators must adapt. In doing so. They can also unlock valuable new revenue streams and enhance the customer experience. We’ve already seen this with the EU’s introduction of RLAH last summer. There was initial hesitation from many in the industry, but LTE roaming traffic surged, happy subscribers escaped ‘bill shock’, and many operators realised that encouraging more mobile usage isn’t such a bad thing after all!
New services, new markets, new revenue streams
Second, the opportunities. The growing popularity of eSIM, like RLAH before […]
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