I have talked about the potential opportunities and benefits that I believe eSIM offers to mobile operators and other service providers for several years now. I understand that new technology needs to be tried and tested (and fully integrated into billing infrastructure, etc.) but the delays in rolling out eSIM services do cause me to wonder if MNOs are too blinded by protectionism to recognise the true value and appeal of eSIM that it offers them. 
First-Hand Experience of GigSky’s eSIM App 
Last year I was chairing an eSIM conference and I wanted to speak first-hand about eSIM. We’ve had the iPhone and Pixel phones available from Apple and Google respectively for over a year and I thought it would be appropriate for me to back-up my thinking with my actual experience. I was kindly loaned an iPhone XR by GigSky to try out their eSIM app and service and I have to say that it did not disappoint. 
I first tried it out on a trip to the Netherlands and I deliberately did no more than to install the app in advance – no activation or registration as I wanted to see what it would be like as if I was travelling and looking for better and/or cheaper data services whilst away from home. The current alternatives for someone in that situation are to either continue using their current SIM and potentially pay (a lot) for roaming charges, to buy a local SIM card, or similarly to buy/hire a MiFi device. 
The Alternatives to eSIM All Have Drawbacks 
I, like most people, tend to take the easiest route, which is to stick with their usual SIM and put up with roaming charges when abroad. Admittedly, this isn’t so crucial when you are based in Europe as there are agreements in place to try and promote home mobile usage when abroad. However, I still find that I do not use my phone as freely because I want to limit additional costs and potential “bill shock” and/or high day rates for additional data service. This inconveniences me as well as prevents both my home service provider and the ones in the country I am visiting from gaining additional revenues. 
Buying a local SIM card is a lot less expensive but it is not always easy to find a store or outlet. The biggest barrier to this though is that not all phones are dual-SIM and physically swapping SIMs is a pain (I don’t want to risk losing my home SIM); most importantly my number is my mobile identity and I still need it for various services where it is used for two-factor authentication or the service is tied to the number, e.g. WhatsApp. To manage this, I would be constantly swapping SIMs and that is too much of a pain. 
A MiFi device is a reasonable compromise but again, you either buy or hire the device, plus pay for the additional local service, and it is another device to carry, charge etc. In this day and age, it is not a good, integrated, digital experience but it does allow you to continue using your primary phone number and services whilst offering the ability to tether multiple devices. 
GigSky’s eSIM App Offers an Integrated, Digital Experience 
The activation and registration was very quick and simple, consisting of only 5 or 6 steps. Once your details and phone are registered you choose the regional plan, the amount of data and the duration of service that you want. I chose the 30 day, 5GB plan as I wanted to use the service on several trips close together. 
Then all that was required was to enter the payment details and add the selected plan to my account. It was all very quick and easy and done whilst outside my hotel, sat by the canal in Amsterdam. My only thought to improve the experience was that it would be great if the payment card data could be captured and entered in a more efficient way than manually entering it all, e.g. via NFC or a photo of the card, as Apple Pay does, or if Apple Pay itself is an option. I’m not an Apple Pay user as I’m not a regular iPhone user so I subsequently checked with GigSky and they confirmed that Apple Pay is an option which provides a much quicker and simpler means of payment. 
And that was that. The plan was active on my account and the above screenshots show that it was available and ready to use. There were a couple of moments when I thought the app had frozen but this turned out to be a poor/lost network connection (much as you can experience on any network). It worked in the Netherlands, in Spain and in Germany, as well as at home in the UK – seamlessly switching between networks and providing me data connectivity in all countries. 
I had my regular number with me at all times plus a pre-paid data connection available for use in any (European) country and with more available plans for any other country that I might visit and I could easily tether my other devices to it too without any worry about restrictions in place from the network operators. I did not have to search for another means of connection; I did not have to look for another SIM and keep swapping them out; I did not have to carry and worry about charging another device whilst travelling and I did not have to worry about potentially high-roaming charges. It’s not for all users – there remain cheaper options out there – but the sheer convenience, the integrated nature and ease of use plus the ability to use it anywhere overcame any cost issues for myself. 
Multiple Benefits for MNOs + Service Providers with an eSIM App 
Using the iPhone’s eSIM and GigSky’s app I only had to spend a few minutes before I was ready to go without any difficulties, all on-board the device and in the app. What I do not understand is why more service providers don’t follow this approach. An app is so much cleaner and offers a huge improvement over some of the QR code approaches being piloted, which simply replace a physical SIM with a printed code. It also offers the ability to generate more user data, insight and provide more interaction for service providers with their customers. If other devices can connect with the primary phone/tablet hosting the eSIM app then it could be used to activate limited-term contracts for other devices too; this would overcome the issues around form factor or screenless consumer devices. Those who adopt such an approach will find that it offers the best potential experience for users and creates more upselling opportunities for network operators, building loyalty and tying in customers (which is what network operators want!). 
Tagged as: eSIM, GigSky, iPhone, MiFi, MNOs, mobile, SIM
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