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Telecoms in 2020: NCC’s bold step unlocking e-SIM potentials for consumers

… GSMA estimates that by 2025, more than 2 billion eSIM devices will be shipped




In 2019, two major smartphone manufacturers announced several of their models were now equipped with eSIM functionality Today, iPhones XS, XS Max, XR and Google Pixel 3, are all at the higher end – supporting eSIMs.

Yes, eSIM has become a hot topic among original equipment or device manufacturers and its increasing role in the industry is clear –  as device manufacturers benefit from lower costs and more space on the processing board.


MTN Nigeria e-SIM Evolution

Moreover, eSIM helps service providers to generate new revenue streams, and a future of billions of IoT connected devices

In 2020, many more are following suit. By 2025, GSMA estimates that more than 2 billion eSIM devices will be shipped. This is a strong incentive for the industry to go for eSIM and that is why we regard the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC’s) nodding in agreement to e-SIM trial by MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile, as step in the right direction. Smile Communications had in December 2019 introduced an innovative Voice and SMS ONLY product dubbed eSIMVoice.


To activate the offer, the customer needs to buy a Smile eSIM, complete the mandatory KYC and get their assigned SmileVoice number

Undisputedly, NCC has always worked to put Nigeria’s telecoms sector ahead of cutting-edge technologies that can revolutionise consumer experience.

Thus, the Commission granted approval for two mobile network operators (MNOs), MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile, to carry out trial on the workability of embedded Subscriber Identification Modules (e-SIM) Service in Nigeria.

The trial, approved to run for a period of one year, will involve testing 5,000 e-SIMs by the two networks, subject to compliance with a number of regulatory conditions.

prof Danbatta

EVC of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta

According to Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the primary objective of the e-SIM trial is to assess the technical performance of the e-SIM on telecoms service providers’ network towards eventual rollout, if satisfactory.

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He said the e-SIMs is a technology that will eliminate the need for physical SIM card slots on mobile devices in the near future, adding that the trial is in line with the Commission’s forward-looking regulatory approach to ensure Nigeria’s telecoms ecosystem is in tandem with global best practices.

How will this benefit consumers?

The answer is not farfetched: Ericsson ConsumerLab has run a market research study, revealing key insights which means customers are ready to take the next step and pay for eSIM services:

  1. Cellular connectivity for additional devices is the top application of eSIM that consumers are interested in. 6 in 10 want to connect their laptops to cellular connectivity, yet very few do it today.
  2. Every SIM card is problematic, main issue being related to the ever decreasing size of SIM cards.

For consumers, eSIM represents peace of mind, for example 45% mention having access to multiple operators in the same smartphone for emergencies.

9Mobile e-SIM in Nigeria

  1. 6 in 10 smartphones users are interested in eSIM. However, 40% of them have locked smartphones, while73% have post-paid plans with a contract.
  2. 29% of smartphone users would consider buying a smartwatch with cellular connectivity if the process of enrollment with the operator was seamless.

National Roaming:

Similarly, the Commission also granted approval for MTN and 9mobile trial on national roaming service for a period of three months, commencing from October 14, 2020 to end by January 13, 2021.

The two telcos are expected to configure their networks to begin test and simulation for customer experience.

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The trial approval covers a few local governments, designated as the National Roaming geographic area, in Ondo State. Basically, roaming service will enable a mobile subscriber in Nigeria to automatically make and receive voice calls, send and receive data, or access other services when travelling outside a particular network geographical area by utilising the network coverage of other networks with roaming arrangements to access service.

Telecom Masts

Telecom Masts

Again, Prof. Danbatta, said that the primary objective of the National Roaming Service trial is to encourage network resource sharing among operators.

It is will also lead to operational expenditure (OPEX) optimisation and capital expenditure (CAPEX) efficiencies leading to freeing up of resources to expand mobile network coverage to unserved and underserved communities across the country, which will lead to improved Quality of Service (QoS) delivery to subscribers.

We believe that the gains of these regulatory excellency shall be felt among consumers in year 2021 and beyond.  

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