Mytel recently announces that it will be the first operator to launch eSIM in Myanmar.
The mobile operator presented the breakthrough in a Youtube video (Myanmar language) that demonstrate the capability of this new technology.
Besides the marketing stunt, it is interesting to understand what is eSIM and the pros and cons of the technology.
What does SIM mean?
Before we can discuss about the modern eSIM, lets take a step back and understand what a standard SIM card is and what it does.
The term SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module, and it’s just a simple memory chip that contains identity information about mobile users. SIM cards are usually integrated into a Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) with metal contacts.
The first cards were the size of a credit card. Over the years, they’ve been getting smaller and smaller.
eSIM cards are the newest and most recent SIM card format, although they probably shouldn’t even be called that.
The new SIM type is a SIM-card which is embedded in the mobile device. The SIM stores all information that is necessary to identify and authenticate the mobile subscriber.
An eSIM consists on an integrated chip that cannot be removed from a mobile device. The information on the embedded SIM is rewritable by all operators that support the technology. The identification information can be updated over the air, to enable a change of operator. Therefore, a new SIM will no longer be required.
The main driver for embedded SIM comes from the difficulty to change a SIM card in M2M or IoT devices.
eSIM Pros & Benefits
- Key to the development of IoT (Internet of Things). eSIM provide connectivity capability to smaller devices like Smartwatches, Fit bands, Smart Meters etc.
- Smaller in size compared to Nano
- Easy to use
- Enable better waterproof/water-resistant handsets
- Eliminate any mechanical issue and as such the risk of a damaged/broken SIM card.
eSIM definitely come with some disadvantages. First of all, as long as Mytel is the only mobile operator to support eSIM in Myanmar, eSIM smartphones will be completely locked in and Myanmar customers won’t be able to switch to a different mobile operator.
Saying that, we can see in the demonstration video that the eSIM smartphone showcased is also equipped with a physical SIM slot.
The second drawback of embedded SIM is that if you run out of battery on your smartphone, you cannot unplug the SIM and use a friend phone to pass an emergency call. Same thing if your phone gets damaged, you won’t be able to simply swap your SIM to your emergency phone.
For those who are paranoid about location tracking, there is also no way to remove the SIM from the smartphone and therefore to be untraceable.
A limited choice of compatible consumer devices
As usual with new technologies, high end devices get it first and it slowly spreads to middle and low range. Here is a non exhaustive list of smartphones that embed an eSIM chip:
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.