Most of us have been there, waiting for SIMs to arrive and then fiddling around with batteries and SIM slots, hoping that our engineering and assembly skills are just good enough. Physical SIMs have been around in various incarnations since around 1991. They’ve had a good run.
It may seem embedded, or eSIMs, have been talked about for ages also – well at least a couple of years. That said, technologies often seem like they’ve been around for years before they become normal and even then their adoption can be lumpy or reinvigorated, (think of turntables and vinyl). The same may be true for physical SIMs but their days seem numbered in the context of moves to 5G and shifts in consumer sentiment.
Bluetooth was often over-hyped in its early years but these days it is so mainstream that the brand “Bluetooth” is often not even mentioned in preference to other consumer and business brands that have it embedded. In most cases, the “Garmin” wearable or in-car communications just work. So too with online shopping and cashless (now cardless) payments. The initial couple of years of most tech can seem sluggish as logistics, hardware and delivery issues are ironed out and before viral critical mass takes hold.
After a lot of early hype however, manufacturers such as Apple, Huawei and Samsung are now embracing eSIM technology in volume and as a means to more directly position their products with consumers. It makes delivery through direct channels more straightforward and the ability of devices to work “out of the box” much more pleasant for their consumers. Whether there is exclusivity of device distribution between certain operators and manufacturers, physical SIM handling is no longer a constraint.
When it comes to SIMs, like many things, it seems that what was progressing anyway may be about to receive a shove from another source that was not quite anticipated by many operators a couple of years ago – consumer demand for less packaging waste. According to the International Card Manufacturers Association (ICMA), there were 5.5 billion SIM cards manufactured globally in 2017. If predictions are true for 5G and IoT, then the potential for plastic packaging and waste to grow exponentially could have a sharpened focus from furious environmentalists.
Truly proactive operators such as Globe in the Philippines, are embracing eSIM technology as a near-future opportunity, complimentary to 5G and a means to enhance customer experiences. It also happens to be kinder to the environment which is a broader promise of 5G in any event. More operator brands and some brands yet to be established will do likewise in 2019.