MOBILE phone customers could soon be able to pick and switch telcos in an instant.
Obtaining a new SIM card and migrating to a new carrier remains a barrier for many complacent consumers who can’t be bothered switching to save.
But the arrival of eSIM capable phones could soon allow users to connect to a rival network without requiring a physical SIM card.
The latest iPhone devices including the XS and XS Max both allow a nano-SIM and eSIM to operate.
The latter enables users to activate a plan without having to insert a SIM card.
But Australians telcos are yet to support this technology, despite eSIMs already working on some smartwatch devices including the Apple Watch 4 and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch.
The consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said closely it’s watching the movement of telcos in joining forces with phone companies to enable this new technology.
“E-SIMs have the potential to greatly promote competition in the mobile sector by facilitating consumer switching and the ACCC is monitoring the use of eSIMS in Australia,” an ACCC spokesman said.
Mobile phone customers use a nano-SIM — a physical SIM card — but to switch carriers they need to insert another nano-SIM from their new carrier before making any changes.
Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton questioned why phone customers still required a physical SIM card.
“The carriers do not support eSIM because that puts the power into consumers’ hands and the consumers can leave without having do to a SIM swap,” he said.
“Subscribers should be able to move, if you do the best job and offer the best plan and the best network and give good customer service you should keep that customer.
“Carriers will have lost the ability to be able to lock you in to their network, because you will be able to take your same phone and switch to another network seamlessly.”
Mobile phone portability also allows customers to keep the same number when they switch carriers.
Telstra has the largest share of customers (43 per cent), followed by Optus (28 per cent) and Vodafone (18 per cent.)
Smaller carriers make up the remaining 11 per cent.
Telco comparison website WhistleOut’s spokesman Joseph Hanlon said eSIM capabilities could have a drastic impact in the Australian telco market and ultimately save consumers money.
“It will really ramp up people’s awareness of what’s in the market and who the smaller providers are,” he said.
“If you have any trouble with your service provider you can just press a button and move onto the next provider.”
Vodafone’s chief commercial officer Ben McIntosh said they would work with phone manufacturers to deliver the eSIM capability to market.
“New technology that gives people more choice and flexibility is ultimately a good thing for consumers,” he said.