ACCC to steer clear of eSIM regulations for now

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ACCC to steer clear of eSIM regulations for now

But will keep a close watch on when MVNOs gain access.

Telstra and other mobile network operators are to be given more time to open eSIM functionality up to mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said Monday [pdf] that it would continue to maintain a “close watching brief” on eSIM technology.

eSIMs are programmable SIM cards embedded directly into devices like smartphones, tablets and wearables. 

They should allow users to more easily “switch between operators without physically changing the SIM” in the device.

But it is for this reason that the commission has taken a keen interest in the adoption of eSIM technology since April last year - in the event that telcos felt a need to stifle the expansion of the technology.

On that note, the ACCC indicated the delay in allowing MVNOs to sell services using e-SIMs “was due to the need for investment in IT platforms for MVNO use, which [mobile operators] and MVNOs need to work together to develop.”

“Today, only mobile operators provide support for the use of eSIM only devices in Australia and only sell plans to use eSIM enabled wearables as an addon to a mobile phone plan (noting the phone number is shared between the two devices),” the ACCC said in a research note.

“MVNOs cannot offer their customers support for eSIM only devices until their host [operator] supports MVNO access to the eSIM.”

The ACCC indicated that eSIM functionality for MVNOs is on the horizon, and might follow a similar trajectory to the opening of other cellular services to the MVNO market, where there is typically a delay to availability.

“We note that there is a history of [operators] enabling functionality (such as 4G) for their own retail services prior to offering it to their MVNOs and that this may similarly be occurring here,” the commission said.

“We understand that there are likely to be some wholesale platform costs to enable MVNO support and acknowledge that wearable eSIM only devices currently make up only a small proportion of the overall mobile market. 

“However, eSIM devices have now been available in Australia for over two years and we are concerned about the potential reduction in competition stemming from the continued lack of MVNO access to eSIMs. 

“That said, we are aware that Telstra Wholesale is now building a business case to support MVNOs rolling out eSIM functionality. 

“The ACCC would be concerned if broad MVNO support is not forthcoming, especially as more eSIM only devices come to market and the mobile industry transitions to eSIM only devices.”

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