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eSIM growth set to explode as more operators embrace the tech says CCS Insight report

Staff Reporter
June 5, 2024

eSIM usage is a tiny fraction of total global mobile subscribers, at only 150 million eSIMs, compared with 8.9 billion cellular subscriptions worldwide but operators seem now more willing to embrace the technoogy say analysts at CCS Insight.

Around 800 operators worldwide now support eSIM technology, and there are more than 200 eSIM-enabled devices

CCS Insight carried out research into eSIM usage in the UK, the US, Germany, Spain, and Australia involving at least 1,000 people in each market. Four in 10 people said they had heard of eSIM. When the concept was explained, over three-quarters of respondents said they would be interested in eSIM. However, some of the main benefits were not fully understood.

eSIM only US iPhone14 has pushed North America to top of eSim usage league

One of the findings was that, until recently, many telecom operators were unwilling to support eSIM in smartphones, fearing a loss of relevance to big tech rivals, the encouragement of new competition, and a reduction in roaming revenue

The catalyst for growth was the arrival of the first eSIM-only iPhone

The report shows that the catalyst for growth was the arrival of the first eSIM-only iPhone 14 for the US market in 2022. This pushed other operators to offer the technology, leaving many customers with little option but to embrace it.

“eSIM is a technology that’s ready to go mainstream. Driven by Apple, but with growing support from Android-powered device manufacturers, the number of compatible mobile phones will more than double from a billion at the end of 2023 to 2.5 billion in 2028. Over the same period, the share of global sales of smartphones that support eSIM technology will jump from just over a quarter to over half” said Luke Pearce, Senior Analyst.

Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity, added: “We found a shift in sentiment among operators to be more accepting of the technology and increasingly optimistic about the new opportunities it can enable. These include supporting more digital customer journeys, attracting new customers, improving environmental credentials, and achieving major cost savings, estimated by the research to total more than $3 billion in the industry by 2028.”

Mann: operators to be more accepting of eSIM technology

Apple’s strong push has propelled North America into an early lead in eSIM.

Apple’s strong push has propelled North America into an early lead in eSIM. The region already hosts over half of all global eSIM users, with 50 different providers supporting the technology. Now all industry eyes are on whether Android manufacturers will accelerate their efforts to close the gap. This includes leading Chinese brands, which have so far only introduced eSIM on a limited number of international models because of regulations barring the technology in their home market.

One of the growing uses for eSIM assessed in the report is international roaming. Analysis shows that a flood of specialist providers have entered the market in recent years, offering more convenient and affordable options to access mobile data when traveling”.

The report charts strong growth in the number of roaming eSIMs set to be provisioned over the next few years, after eSIM roaming doubled in 2023. This is supported by CCS Insight’s own consumer research, which shows that one in 10 people in five leading markets have already used an eSIM for roaming. Of those yet to do so, more than 60% said they would consider taking an eSIM for roaming in the future.

This highlights a major challenge for the industry. As momentum for eSIM gathers pace, focus should increasingly turn to supporting people embarking on new customer journeys, particularly those who are less confident using new technology. It could be that those companies best able to guide their customers along this path will end up being the most successful”

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