According to a report in the Financial Times, mobile market leaders Samsung and Apple are in advanced talks with the GSMA, the mobile telecom industry association, regarding plans to adopt Electronic SIM (e-SIM) technology. Such a move would drastically shake up the relationship between customers and network operators.
E-SIM technology enables devices to work on any supporting network without the need for a physical SIM card and would allow customers to switch carrier more easily. This may put an end to network exclusive handsets debuts and, more importantly, would allow consumers to switch between networks to find a better deal without having to change a physical SIM card. Current physical SIMs are tied to a specific carrier and won’t work with handsets locked to other networks.
“We have got everyone back on one point, with Apple and Samsung agreeing to be part of that specification … the plan is to finalise the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016.” – Anne Bouverot, chief executive of the GSMA
The GSMA is apparently close to announcing an agreement on a standard for e-SIM implementation in smartphones. The standard is heading towards a common architecture, which should iron out all of the technical details to ensure that the technology works across carriers and with all participating smartphone manufacturers.
Several major network operators are already said to be on board, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, Vodafone and others. Apple had previously tried to implement its own e-SIM idea, but barely convinced a couple of carriers to join its scheme.
That said, the specification is not expected to be finalized for a while yet, and it will be probably be later than 2016 before any devices supporting e-SIM technology reach the market.