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OSS/BSS/CX

T-Mobile taps eSIM tech for free network 'test drive'

T-Mobile has long offered potential customers the opportunity to "test drive" its network by mailing them a hotspot to which they can connect their phone.

Now, though, T-Mobile is leveraging a new technology that will allow customers to test out the company's network directly, with their existing phone, just by downloading an app. The offering uses the eSIM function in newer iPhones, and could potentially hint at a future when switching operators is as simple as clicking a button.

"The T-Mobile Network Test Drive app is an iOS only based app that gives potential customers using a compatible unlocked iPhone the option to test our amazing network out before joining," T-Mobile boasts on its website. "T-Mobile Network Test Drive offers you up to 30 days or 30GB of high-speed data along with unlimited talk and text for free, all while keeping your current carrier and phone number. This gives you the ability to try our network on your iPhone, risk free."

As highlighted by T-Mo Report, the operator also released a detailed video on the service:

The offering relies on the eSIM capability built into new iPhones. eSIM is a technology that basically replaces the fingernail-sized SIM card in most phones with a digital version that can be updated or replaced remotely.

The GSMA the trade organization for the global wireless industry first started working on eSIM technology in 2011. Although the technology has faced some setbacks in the intervening years, it's now starting to gain traction in the US and elsewhere. For example, Apple today boasts that it can allow customers to run two numbers one for work, one for personal use through a single iPhone.

But that's just one of many applications for the technology. "It could lead to a service where a device efficiently selects, on behalf of the user, which profile to use in any given situation," according to the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which investigated the likes of AT&T and Verizon for stalling the rollout of the technology in the US. "For example, the eSIM could switch services if it detects stronger network coverage or a lower cost network, providing consumers with better or less expensive service."

The technology is particularly tantalizing to companies entering the wireless industry, companies that might be looking for easy ways to get customers to switch from their current provider.

For example, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said in 2019 that the company is interested in broadening its mobile capabilities "using a combination of dual SIM technology and unlicensed and potentially licensed spectrum." Charter is now preparing to build its own wireless network.

And support for eSIM was also one of the stipulations in the agreement between T-Mobile and Dish Network brokered by the DoJ. Dish is preparing to switch on its first 5G market.

Thus, T-Mobile's new eSIM-powered test drive highlights yet another potential use for the technology.

A T-Mobile representative described the offering as a "pilot program" but provided no further details.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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