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Are eSIMs the Future of Telcommunications?

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Louis Avenant, Senior Project Manager at Intimate Solutions, highlights the exponential growth in smart and connected devices, making a strong case for greater investment in the nascent technology.

He states, “eSIMs eliminate the need for physical SIM cards, providing a software-based solution that can be used in smart devices, including smartphones, wearables, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. eSIMs also offer additional convenience to travellers as they can easily switch between networks.”

Growth Prediction of IoT Devices

The market for IoT devices holds particular promise for telcos, given that each device requires its own SIM. Analysts predict the number of global IoT devices will grow by 16% this year to reach 16.7 billion endpoints and nearly 30 billion endpoints by 2027.

This growth in IoT adoption aligns with the rapid expansion of the broader mobile industry, with analysts expecting one billion mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa by 2028.

Environmental Case for eSIMs

However, reports indicate that the gradual adoption of eSIMs can be attributed to low product maturity and complex technical onboarding and registration environments.

eSIMs are typically loaded onto devices using a QR code, offering the ability to easily switch between mobile network operators and providing greater safety from theft. Considering the substantial amount of plastic involved with traditional SIM cards, there is also a strong environmental case for eSIMs.

Avenant points out that many issues with the rollout of eSIMs can be traced back to registration and sales processes, placing onerous requirements on telco operators and their customers. He suggests, “There is a case to be made for telco operators lobbying the government to relax some of the systems around SIM registration to encourage the adoption of eSIMs, which offer distinct advantages to consumers in terms of safety and convenience.”

SIM Card Registration Process

The process of registering a SIM card – whether prepaid or subscription-based – differs between countries. In South Africa, it’s easier to obtain customer data, making compliance with legislation such as RICA easier.

In Cameroon, the government is still rolling out its new national identity card, leaving telcos to collect whatever KYC data they can.

He adds that telco operators should leverage the technology and insight of local partners to help them navigate key constraints to broader adoption of eSIMs among consumers. “By integrating eSIM registration at the point-of-sale, telco operators can remove friction for customers and ease the process of selling, registering, and loading eSIMs,” says Avenant. “Keeping systems optimized for the handling of eSIMs will also allow telco operators to maintain control over KYC and other processes, ensuring they are not left behind when competitors make headway in this space.”

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