What is eSIM, how does it work and when will it appear in Russia?

ESIM technology (Embedded SIM – Embedded SIM) is designed to become an alternative to the physical SIM cards that are used today in smartphones, phones, tablets and other equipment. What is this all about? eSIM is a chip that is built into the device at the stage of production of the latter. This module is much more compact than NanoSIM and is likely to reduce the cost of producing smartphones if they eventually switch to using eSIM – there is no need for a separate slot for a physical SIM card. But this is only a theory, and what we get in practice?

Formally, the eSIM technology appeared a long time ago and has been supported for several years by both individual mobile operators and equipment manufacturers there. Most users learned about eSIM only after Apple presented its iPhone XS, XS Max and XR smartphones – they use one physical SIM card and one virtual one. Yes, while almost all manufacturers in the world use a slot for two SIM cards, Apple continues to focus on only one SIM, but now virtual eSIM has been added to it, which is also good.

Looking ahead a bit, we note that Apple still has smartphones with two SIM cards: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR for the markets of Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. It looks like this:

Why hasn’t Apple taken this path in other markets? However, we will postpone this conversation until later..

By the way, telecom operators also save on eSIM technology, since there is no need to issue physical SIM cards, the production of which also costs money.

How eSIM Works?

Inside the case of a smartphone or other device is a tiny module that does not require a physical SIM card. What the user needs to do to connect to the carrier?

First, choose a mobile operator that supports eSIM, and there are more than enough such operators in some countries.

Secondly, scan a special QR code on the operator’s website, or install its application.

Thirdly, connect to the operator – all this is done remotely using the application.

All. In the parameters you can set which SIM card will be the main one and which one will be used as an additional.

Thus, you can easily and simply change your mobile operator at least once a week..

Cool? Of course. And there is an opinion that Apple will be the first company to completely abandon physical SIM cards. True, there is one important nuance – far from all markets there is the possibility of using eSIM at the legislative level. However, for certain markets you can produce devices with a separate tray for physical SIM cards, right?

When eSIM will appear in Russia?

And here we have bad news – at the time of this writing, the use of eSIM in the Russian Federation is officially prohibited, since this is considered to be a copy of a physical SIM card.

But surely this technology is supported by mobile operators, you ask? Unlikely. Yes, eSIM allows you to change the mobile operator with just an application, but there is a catch in the growth of virtual operators, which, in theory, can get a considerable number of subscribers from the Big Four, and this in turn would lead to a decrease in the cost of mobile communication for subscribers.

The second point – virtual SIM cards do not have an identifier that physical SIM cards have, which, again, is against the law.

Thirdly, you can only establish a subscriber’s identity by passport, which is quite difficult in the case of the application. On the other hand, in some other areas, a photo with documents is used for identification, which is transmitted in the application, but then this can cause a wave of fraud.

In general, there are a lot of problems on the way to implementing eSIM in the Russian Federation. Will they be resolved? This will only show time, but for now we continue to use physical SIM cards.