Switch mobile operator without changing SIM cards? IMDA wants feedback on eSIM tech

Switch mobile operator without changing SIM cards? IMDA wants feedback on eSIM tech

Embedded SIM cards are expected to facilitate greater choice of mobile operators and more competitive plans for devices, says an IMDA executive.

Embedded SIM cards are expected to facilitate greater choice of mobile operators and more competitive plans for devices, says an IMDA executive. Brandon Tanoto with more.

SINGAPORE: Want the option of switching mobile operators with a few clicks of the mouse and without having to physically queue at a telco outlet?

Enter embedded SIM (eSIM) technology, which has been identified as something that could benefit from policy and regulatory certainty and, in turn, unlock the potential of next-generation 5G networks, said Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) deputy chief executive for Policy, Regulation and Competition Aileen Chia on Wednesday (Jun 6).

The agency launched a public consultation to seek views on the policy and regulatory frameworks for the deployment of the tech on Wednesday. This was announced at a 5G Workshop held in conjunction with the ongoing Smart Nations Innovation Week

With eSIM, consumers could potentially switch or sign up for mobile services without having to be at a telecoms shop in person. The operator-agnostic SIM embedded in one’s mobile device could be activated over the air by any operator, and consumers will not need to keep swopping SIM cards, Ms Chia said.

This is why IMDA is proposing to extend the current no SIM-lock policy, which does not allow any mobile operator to lock devices imported to and sold in Singapore to a particular operator, to eSIMs, the agency said.

“Given developments in eSIM technology, eSIMs will increasingly be used in mobile phones, tablets and wearables, amongst others,” IMDA said in its press release.

“The policy remains relevant to encourage competition and provide consumers with the freedom to choose and switch between mobile operators without changing their devices.”

That said, eSIM technology is still “nascent” today, Ms Chia pointed out, and this public consultation is meant to pave the way for when it hits mainstream use.

There are not many eSIM-enabled devices in the market currently, with the LTE-enabled Apple Watch, Google’s Pixel 2 smartphones and Microsoft’s Surface Pro among them.  

More launches of such devices are expected though, with industry body Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) saying eSIMs will make it easier to extend mobile connectivity to devices such as tablets, smart watches, fitness bands and portable health systems. 

BOON FOR BUSINESSES? 

While the benefits for consumers are there, eSIM technology could potentially have a greater impact on businesses - particularly for those with large-scale Internet of Things (IoT) or machine-to-machine (M2M) deployments such as in logistics or utilities.

Ms Chia pointed to an example of a business with a fleet of vehicles to manage. 

Currently, these IoT-enabled vehicles would have SIM cards in them, and they may be soldered in, which makes switching operators almost an untenable choice, as they will have to swap out the physical SIM cards, she told Channel NewsAsia.

Such a scenario could be prevented with eSIMs, as the service activation by the new telco provider can be done over the air, she explained.

As part of the public consultation, IMDA is proposing to maintain the current licensing framework for M2M only for devices that support mobility and/or come with restricted voice communication features for public safety reasons. 

For other IoT or M2M devices, the regulator is looking at a “light-touch” licensing approach where the device manufacturer, importer and seller are required to just register the device and obtain a Telecommunication Dealer’s (Class) licence. They will not be required to keep subscription-related information such as SIM card information, it added. 

IMDA is also proposing that mobile operators and service providers adopt the GSMA specifications for eSIM-enabled devices, as well as ISO 27001 to protect against cyberattacks.

The public consultation will close on Jul 18, the agency said. 

Source: CNA/zl

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