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August 31, 2022
T-Mobile on Wednesday announced it will use eSIM technology to offer customers the option to switch to its network with the click of a button.
The company previously tested such a service under the "test drive" moniker last year.
The move is noteworthy because it's the first time a major US network operator has widely embraced the promise of eSIM technology. And it represents a major competitive attack by T-Mobile against its rivals because the company is promising cheaper services alongside up to $1,000 in customers' switching costs.
Figure 1: iPhones are among the devices that support eSIM.
"Switching is another insane artifact left over from a stupid, broken, arrogant industry ... and it's hard on purpose. As the industry juggernauts in the 3G and 4G era, Verizon and AT&T designed switching to be difficult, keeping their hordes of customers from leaving to protect their billions in revenues," said Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile, in a release. "At the Un-carrier, we're laser-focused on being the wireless provider you want to stay with, not the one you're stuck with. Now through digital innovation we're making it easier than ever to switch with no worry, less hassle and tons more value than ever before with T-Mobile."
Download app, then switch
The service works entirely via T-Mobile's iOS and the Android smartphone app. Customers who download the app can see whether their phone is eligible, and if it is, they can switch their service to T-Mobile's network in minutes.
Moreover, T-Mobile is also offering prospective customers a "Network Pass," wherein they can test the carrier's network for up to three months for free. "They keep their phone, their number, their plan ... and they don't even need to share their credit card number. People and businesses can then switch with confidence, knowing that T-Mobile works for them," the operator wrote.
In order to switch to T-Mobile, customers' phones will need to support eSIM and be unlocked from their existing carrier. (T-Mobile said it will also mail SIM cards to customers without eSIM capabilities.) If customers have already paid off the value of their eSIM phone and it's still not unlocked, they may need to ask their existing carrier to unlock their phone. If they have not yet paid off the value of their phone, T-Mobile is offering up to $1,000 in order to pay off their device for them so they can switch.
The GSMA – the trade organization for the global wireless industry – first started working on eSIM technology in 2011. However, the technology stalled in the US because, according to a US Department of Justice (DoJ) investigation, AT&T and Verizon sought to slow the technology over worries they would lose customers. However, eSIM is now supported by device vendors like Apple and Samsung and providers like Google Fi. Indeed, Dish Network made eSIM a key element of its entry into the US wireless industry.
Cable companies like Charter and Comcast are also looking at ways of using eSIM to access multiple networks.
T-Mobile is clearly positioning its new eSIM offering as a competitive attack against AT&T and Verizon, and the nation's cable companies.
Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading
Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.
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