eSIM: what are they and what are the advantages? What is the situation in Italy?

eSIM: what are they and what are the advantages? What is the situation in Italy?


In case you didn't know, the technology that can permanently eliminate the use of physical SIMs has already existed for many years but, for one reason or another, is struggling to establish itself. Apple is pushing this technology in the US with the new iPhone 14, which in the US does not have a traditional SIM slot but only two eSIMs.

What exactly are eSIMs? How do they work? Will they really replace that plastic-surrounded ID chip we all use inside smartphones?

First of all, why do we need a SIM?

From the very beginning, standard SIMs contain owner-related information. They also have a long 20-digit numerical code called ICCID (not to be confused with the telephone line number) which is unique and identifies one and only one SIM in the world.

Furthermore, within the SIMs, there is the IMSI code, which contains the telephone number, some essential information and two security codes: the famous PIN and PUK required to unlock the device at start-up.

What is an eSIM and how does it work?

The first smartphone to integrate an eSIM is it was the Google Pixel 2, presented on the market in 2017, which in the United States made it possible to quickly change the operator. How? Simply from the settings menu, acquiring a QR Code.

In a nutshell, when we need a new operator, we want to switch from one to the other or simply change tariff profile, just have a QR with us Code that identifies the information needed for correct activation. We will not have to unplug and plug anything into the smartphone to change operator, everything will be completely digital.

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

Furthermore, the smaller size of the module makes it compatible, for example, with accessories such as smartwatches, in which the space for hardware is really reduced compared to smartphones and a SIM in physical format would therefore have a harder time finding space.

Switching to eSIM has an additional advantage: we no longer have to go to a store to activate it the first time. Just connect to the operator's website, which will provide us with the exact information to be able to subscribe to the new rate profile on the eSIM. It goes without saying that we will not even have to wait for a product to be shipped (if we bought it online) as everything needed for its operation is available immediately.

What are the disadvantages of an eSIM?

A disadvantage of eSIMs is that, at least for the moment, QRs are disposable. This means that, after the first activation, if you want to move the eSIM profile between two different smartphones, you will have to repeat the procedure at the operator you belong to, thus eliminating the advantage explained in the previous paragraph.

Another disadvantage is that if the smartphone breaks or its battery runs out, it will not be possible to move the information connected to the telephone line as is done with a classic SIM, which can be extracted and moved at will in almost all circumstances.

Where are we in Italy?

It is clear that eSIM is the future of telephone cards, but for now the project is struggling to take off. In addition to the compatibility problems of smartphones, particularly in the medium-low range, it is up to the telephone operators to implement and push this technology into their systems and networks.

eSIM as a clone of the main SIM

There are only two operators in Italy that allow you to double your phone number on a main SIM reserved for your smartphone and on a secondary eSIM: TIM and Vodafone.

The option, which with little fantasia is called One Number by both operators, it allows you to use a wearable equipped with an eSIM card for calls and networking without the need for a smartphone connected via Bluetooth.

One Number by Vodafone, launched in 2018 and compatible with Apple Watch from the fourth generation onwards, it has a cost of 5 euros per month at the time of writing. Tim allows the doubling of his number for use on an Apple Watch or a Galaxy Watch 4 since mid-December 2021, the cost is always 5 euros per month.

eSIM to replace the main SIM

If, on the other hand, your intention is to permanently abandon the old physical medium and use only an eSIM on your smartphone, it is quite possible that your network operator has this option.

TIM asks for a one-off payment of 10 euros for the activation of an eSIM with a new number, while the cost rises to 15 euros to transform a physical SIM into a digital one while keeping your own plan.

Vodafone allows those who activate a new number to request an eSIM at the cost of a single euro, while the transfer to eSIM costs 10 euros for existing customers, the same cost that the customer will face for the replacement of the card in case of loss, theft or breakage of the smartphone.
WindTre activated its eSIMs in March 2021 with prices similar to those of TIM: 10 euros for a new number and 15 euros for an existing number.

TIM allows you to move your number using the same QR code generated when the eSIM is activated several times, while with WindTre the QR code is “disposable”. It will be necessary to go to the store again to generate a new code if necessary, although the operation is still free.

Google Pixel 6 is one of the smartphones that supports eSIM.

The procedure is different with Very Mobile, WindTre's virtual operator. the MVNO allows the creation of the eSIM or its transfer in a completely digital way. The QR code can be requested on the operator's website and is sent via e-mail up to three times free of charge, while subsequent requests have a cost of 10 euros.

Last of the operators that currently allows activation of an eSIM is Spusu: at a price of € 9.90 it is possible to activate a new number or transfer an existing number to eSIM. The advantage over other operators is that the QR code of the eSIM can be used as many times as you want to move the number from one smartphone to another, even if Spusu does not allow the splitting of the eSIM for use on tablets or wearable.

Great absent Iliad, who promised in March 2021 that the service would arrive as quickly as possible. Probably due to the concentration on the launch of the new connectivity offer on optical fiber, it is not yet possible to request an eSIM for users of the French operator. Very strange is the impossibility of using an eSIM with ho. Mobile, Vodafone's virtual operator.

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