The transition to eSIMs has arrived in Africa

eSIM provider, Workz talks about the digitization of the virtual SIM

Mark Humphreys, Chief Marketing Officer at Workz talks to this telecoms publication on the digitization of the customer experience with the virtual SIM.

eSIMs are beginning to arrive in Africa and it may not be long before they start to displace traditional plastic SIMs. It will probably start on high-end phones and other non-phone devices like tablets and watches but eventually find it’s way into the market right across the price range. 

Everyone’s familiar with plastic, analogue SIMs. You either have a pocket full of them or they live in the multiple handsets you carry around. Then came the micro and nano SIMs which were even smaller than the original mini-SIM. Next in line is the embedded eSIM that is only 6mm in length.

An eSIM will come in the form of an integrated SIM chip that cannot and need not be removed from a device. It is like a traditional SIM but it’s embedded into the device so it’s smaller. It allows you to connect exactly the same as a plastic SIM card would.


The software on an eSIM allows you to have more than one network profile so it will save people having to carry multiple phones or SIMs just to change networks.

It’s like having 5-6 SIM cards in your pocket. The user can enable and disable freely. The SIM card is a secure authenticator. When you’ve got in in your phone, the operator knows it’s you. It’s your unique number registered to you with billing. The eSIM is exactly the same but it simplifies the process.

It can post-load apps and can have the same applets and is easy to manage remotely. If an operator wants to update the user’s connectivity profile, it can send updates over the air. If a user is travelling to a new country, they can download a cheap eSIM profile.

The other large use case for eSIMs is the M2M market. For example, if you are managing a fleet of vehicles you can track them using embedded SIMs.

Workz Group, a mobile and IoT solutions provider has become the first in the Middle East and Africa to be certified by the GSMA for eSIM technology across its full lifecycle from chip production, secure data generation and personalisation, to remote management services.

Workz, which has previously been certified by the GSMA’s Security Accreditation Scheme for secure eSIM production, data generation and personalisation, has now received certification for its subscription management counterpart at its Dubai data centre.

Reports indicate there will be 25 billion cellular-connected devices globally by 2025, yet a recent survey conducted by Microsoft (2019) cited security as the number one concern for 97% of businesses implementing IoT adoption. As a preventive measure to protect against data breach, the GSMA recommends that companies using eSIM technology work only with accredited providers.

So what’s the business case for a mobile operator?

People can always go out and buy different SIMs but it’s about digitizing the customer offering. What’s in the best interest of the customer wins. The benefit to operators is that it eliminates the time and costs needed for distribution, all the logistics and so on. It’s a huge cost saver and it opens up a load of other potential revenue opportunities. You don’t have to buy a physical piece of plastic, you can register over the air.

This provides greater reach and gives new distribution models and opportunities. For example, it enables operators to capture in-country roaming revenues from so-called ‘silent roamers’. There’s a lot of elasticity in demand and if operators make it cheaper for tourists, they will connect locally. There are high data users on holiday who want access to maps, activities, translation and restaurant reviews.

It’s an exciting opportunity to capture a new market. It gives the handset vendor remote management which allows them to put in bespoke country profiles. You can put in a bootstrap profile that will open anywhere and then download the required network profile when and where they need it.

And what handsets does it come in? It’s available on the high-end iPhone X series and Google Pixel but also on lower-end phones as well as in cars (BMW i3 and i8), tablets (Microsoft’s Surface Pro) and watches (Apple).

For device manufacturers the eSIM will bring mobile connectivity to a whole new set of key compact devices in IoT.

eSIMs are already available in 14 countries with the USA and Europe leading the way and India and Dubai bringing up the rear.

It’s something that’s in its infancy and it’s not just about mobile phones. It will expand the amount of connections on each operator’s network.

So which countries does Workz see as potential markets in Africa?

They’re already available in certain markets in North Africa and Southern Africa. We’re talking to a number of West African operators. We can’t specify names but there’s a big telecoms operator in Southern Africa and a government doing smart water meters. It uses an eSIM embedded in a waterproof device and you can remotely update the connectivity.

Read the full Balancing Act Africa article here.

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