The eSIM is one of the most useful innovations to hit the mobile industry. With a string of benefits, which we will explore below, it is becoming the clear successor to the SIM card.
However, as is with the advent of new technology, clear and concise information is sometimes sparse — especially in the South African context.
In this article, we aim to answer all of your burning eSIM questions. What exactly is an eSIM? How does it differ from your run-of-the-mill SIM card? Can we even use eSIMs, currently?
Here’s everything you need to know about eSIMs in South Africa…
What is an eSIM?
An eSIM, aka embedded SIM card, is basically a virtual sim card. Unlike the physical SIM cards still used widely today, an eSIM is a small electronic chip embedded into your smartphone (iPhone and Android), tablet, or wearable smart device.
It’s important to note that only modern smartphones will sport the eSIM chip, so you will have to check your smartphone specs to see if you have access to this feature.
What do I need to get an eSIM in South Africa?
To get an eSIM you need two things — hardware support on your device, and a mobile provider that supports connecting to their network via an eSIM.
Currently, eSIMs are only available on the latest smartphones and wearable smart devices.
However, due to its extremely convenient functionality, you can expect to see this feature in most, if not all, upcoming smartphone and smart device releases.
Meanwhile, more local mobile providers have announced support for eSIM functionality.
What are the benefits of an eSIM?
Here are a few of the benefits of using an eSIM over a traditional SIM card…
You can easily change networks
Tired of your current mobile service provider? Then you can easily jump over to a new one online via a simple phone call.
No more fooling around with needle-like objects to remove that annoying tiny piece of plastic, or leaving the confines of your humble abode to switch mobile network providers and purchase your new SIM.
But what if you want an account with more than one mobile service provider? No problem!
You can store up to five “SIMs” on a single eSIM.
Imagine your network’s signal is dreadfully low. Or that you’re travelling overseas and you’re not so keen on being bankrupt by data roaming fees.
With an eSIM, you can easily load and store a variety of SIM profiles, allowing you to switch networks to either find a better signal or switch to a local network when travelling abroad.
It increases SIM safety
Your eSIM profile can easily be deactivated and de-linked from a lost or stolen device and then reactivated on your new eSIM-enabled device.
You also don’t risk misplacing or losing your SIM card with an eSIM.
How do I activate my smartphone eSIM in South Africa?
The steps to get your eSIM activated are generally the same across all South African mobile network providers, give or take a few small differences that we’ll explain below.
Step 1 – Go to ‘Settings’ and select the ‘Cellular’ option
Step 2 – Select the ‘Add Cellular Plan’ option and then scan your activation QR Code
Step 3 – Select ‘Confirm Cellular Plan’, then accept the final prompts and choose the default line.
Step 1 – Go to ‘Settings’, then select the ‘Connections’ option.
Step 2 – Tap ‘SIM card manager’ and then heads to ‘Settings’.
Step 3 – Select ‘Add using QR Code’, then scan your unique QR code.
eSIM setup in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom
Vodacom requires that you head over to one of their stores to get the eSIM party started.
“In order to link an eSIM to a contract profile, a customer will either need to visit a participating and approved Vodacom outlet in order to register for eSIM,” it states on the Vodacom eSIM webpage.
Vodacom will also charge you a once-off R98 activation fee, with an additional recurring R25 per month value-added service (VAS) fee.
MTN is a bit more generous and will active your eSIM for free. Like Vodacom, you’ll also need to visit your nearest MTN store to get the process started.
According to the MTN website, your subscription fee will be free for the first six months. After this period, you will also be charged R25 per month.
Cell C seems to be a bit behind the bandwagon in terms of available information, lacking a dedicated webpage. Thus far, it has only provided a single PDF communicating its eSIM terms and conditions.
Cell C does not mention if you are required to visit one of its stores. One can only assume that’s the case, considering that both Vodacom and MTN require it.
They will charge you a once-off “connection fee” of R199. There is no mention of a subscription fee, but we doubt that it’s the only mobile network provider that won’t charge one.
For Telkom customers, you will also need to visit a physical store to receive an eSIM voucher pack. This is the voucher you’ll scan to load your network details.
Like with Cell C, the Telkom page for eSIMs doesn’t mention whether there’s a subscription fee.