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What is eSIM technology and how is it different from a regular SIM?

 What is eSIM technology and how is it different from a regular SIM?

In the event that you lose your SIM card, you only have to go to one of the offices of the company to which the card belongs for the employee to take one of the many cards he has in reserve and check its serial number, and then use the computer to give it your old number and upload all your old data saved in the company’s records to the new card. Thus, in less than a minute, the card that was empty seconds ago is now programmed, and it could have contained any number other than your own number.

But what if all this process could be done remotely? without coming to the Customer Service offices? What if you could have a single SIM card that a number of telecom companies could access remotely and then allocate your own contact number?

This is part of what eSIM technology promises, a technology that a number of phone manufacturers and telecommunications companies have begun to support, with the difference that you will not need to own any additional calling cards with this technology, as some companies have begun to produce phones with SIM embedded and embedded inside it as an essential piece of the phone, called the electronic card "eSIM." 

An overview of how the electronic chip (eSIM) works

The card or SIM that we use on the phone now and that belongs to a local telecommunications company is in fact nothing but an integrated electronic circuit made of silicon, which accepts rewriting or programming. Therefore, when we lose it, we do not lose our number and data. The data is stored in the servers and records of telecommunications companies and service providers, and the physical chip is only an intermediary carrying this data. SIM cards were first manufactured and used in 1991, and they began with relatively large sizes with a memory of 32 kilobytes, but as time passed, the size of the card began to shrink to what is now known as "Nano SIM," with the ability to write data on it up to 256 kilobytes.

One of the card’s tasks is to access the network as it is imagined. Rather, its mission is to link your identity and data, such as the phone number, call balance, and Internet packages, with the wireless network, where the task of connecting to the network belongs to parts designed implicitly with the phone. Therefore, we can always call the emergency services even if there is no communication card inside the phone.

Now, instead of leaving that electronic circuit linked to a physical chip, the phone manufacturers have included an electronic circuit (reprogrammable by telecom companies) in their phones and called it the electronic chip (eSIM), meaning that it is a SIM in principle but digital so that it allows you to activate a cellular data package from the carrier without the need to use a physical SIM.

The most important features and differences that come with the eSIM

Of course, the new technology will bring many advantages, starting from not requiring the card port in the phone in case you want to use another card or phone number, in addition to the ease of moving between one operator and another, and this feature will seem useful for people who may move to places where there is no good coverage. For one network, if another operator is available, the transition will be smoother and less complex.

The technology also allows the use of more than one number on the same card, that is, you can allocate more than one number on the card and activate any of them whenever you want, in addition to the fact that it is possible to allocate numbers from different operators to the same card, although this cannot be done at the same time; that is, if you want to operate another number on the same card on your phone, you must dispense with the other number, but you can revoke the other number.

The technology also heralds the entry of a large number of other devices, such as smart screens, cars, robots, and even household appliances such as refrigerators, into the world of the Internet of Things with better features by taking advantage of the eSIM feature, as a number of companies producing smart devices have already begun to include eSIM cards within their devices.

There are some advantages for companies that produce and design phones, as a number of telecommunications companies will be able to take advantage of the canceled spaces that they used to place the card in its old form, allowing the production of phones that are more tightly closed and have no outlets or free spaces, which matches the efforts of companies like To reduce the number of slots in the phone as much as possible, and the slots for cards were the largest thing that occupied the phone's internal structure, which can be dispensed with, the presence of an integrated card allows system and application developers, as well as network service operators, to link the system to a specific number and track it, or even block the use of any other number on it, which limits the potential for stolen devices to be reused and it

How will the numbers on the electronic card be allocated?

The presence of the card is built-in and embedded within the phone’s hardware, and is known within its program. This allows more than one way for telecom companies to access it and reprogram it, either by using the telecommunications company’s application that you provide for your phone or the method that is now common in most countries, which is through QR codes, where the service operator gives a special fast access code, and as soon as it is scanned over the phone, the electronic card inside it is programmed with the data for the number and the service ID.

This, of course, will not be the only way. For example, it is possible to provide a web interface through which the user uploads his personal data and the data of his phone and card, with an official verification method to allocate a number to the card, knowing that this is the method already used in the Google Fi service that we explained before: How to subscribe to get an electronic chip. But in general, this technology will provide a number of ways in which the SIM can be set up remotely without contacting the carrier.

Does eSIM mean goodbye to telecom companies?

The perception that phones become completely independent from the telecommunications companies providing the service is completely unlikely for the reasons that we explained at the beginning about the nature of the work of the electronic card, as it is not a service provider but only an intermediary. strict and binding laws.

The International Mobile Network Association ("GSMA") is the one that defined and approved the criteria for employing this technology, as it approved its use in two basic ways: the first allows the user to choose the service operator according to the terms of the server, provided that this option is directed primarily to mobile phone users. In the second, some smart devices come with an eSIM chip built in, with limited user options for choosing the operating network. The association said in a paper published in 2018 that this option was presented to suit business companies that provide some special services, as it seems that it will suit other smart devices that use Internet of Things technology and take advantage of the technologies provided by the "SIM" card.

So if you think that eSIM technology provides an independent communication service similar to what Thuraya phones provide, you are wrong because Thuraya communications do not depend primarily on any local network, but rather have their own independent system that is completely linked to their own satellites.

What are the most popular phones that support this technology?

Actually, there are many companies that began to manufacture their phones with "eSIM" cards, and the most famous of these companies is Apple, which began to be enthusiastic about the idea. The company’s phones also supported the "eSIM" chip, and then all the phones that were issued after it, until the company announced the four iPhone 14 models in September 2022 that only support eSIM, meaning that there is no physical SIM entrance in the phone originally!

Although this change applies only to iPhone 14 models sold in the United States currently, this is enough to reveal to us the direction of Apple and its ability to completely abandon the SIM card slot globally in future generations of the iPhone whenever the opportunity arises.

There is also Google, which limited the e-card included with its Pixel 2 and then continued that way with all other Pixel devices. The giant Samsung has also supported this technology since its launch of the Galaxy S20 series of phones, and then it has been supported in all versions, and even the Chinese company Huawei, which came out of the Android market, did not hesitate to support the technology as it supported it starting from the P4O series in the year 2020.

The company Oppo also announced its adoption of the electronic card with its phone, the Oppo Find X3 Pro, and these are not all the companies that have adopted and started the actual production of phones with the "eSIM" feature, but the most famous ones.

But so far, there is only Apple that offers the "eSIM" option as the only option for its users "in the United States," and all of them come with a traditional "SIM" slot, but with the trend of phone companies in general to reduce slots and accessories, the option appears to launch phones with one or two cards from The "eSIM" generation is a strategic choice, particularly for Apple, who is rumored to be planning to launch a phone without a charger port in the future, making it the most convenient option with it. 

Will SIM cards disappear in their old form?

So far, that seems a long way off, but it's not impossible. We have seen the disappearance of technologies that were not expected to disappear, such as fixed phones being replaced by mobile phones, but it appears that the disappearance of traditional cards within years from now is a relatively remote possibility because a large number of phones that can work for more than 5 years, at least according to estimates, still do not have this property.

In addition, all other companies other than major companies, such as Samsung and Apple, have not issued their latest devices with this technology. Also, the adaptations that CSPs have to implement appear to be an obstacle that could slow the full transition to the eSIM era.