T-Mobile expands eSIM support to postpaid customers

The operator joins competitors AT&T and Verizon, which each began offering Apple eSIM support for iPhones late last year. (Apple)

T-Mobile now supports eSIM for postpaid customers with compatible iPhones, enabling a technology that can make it easier for users to switch wireless providers.

The expansion comes after T-Mobile started offering the feature to prepaid customers last year, though support is currently available only for Apple iPhone models XS, XR, and XS Max. The operator joins competitors AT&T and Verizon, which each began offering Apple eSIM support for iPhones late last year.

An eSIM is a digital version of a physical SIM card, built into the device that can be activated and updated to a new service remotely via software, rather than a physical replacement.

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Outside of switching providers, another feature is maintaining two phone numbers on the same device using dual-SIM mode. With dual-SIM capable devices, users can have both an eSIM and physical SIM, which allows users to have two phone numbers (one for work, one for personal for example) on one smartphone. T-Mobile noted it’s also an easy way to set up phones with an international carrier for users traveling outside of the U.S., which also avoids roaming fees.  

T-Mobile postpaid customers that want to switch from physical to eSIM will have to visit a T-Mobile store or get in touch with customer service.

While T-Mobile’s eSIM support has expanded, it doesn’t appear to extend to the newest Pixel smartphones that offer eSIMs. The operator noted it may require a deposit, and charge a $20 assisted or upgrade fee to activate eSIM.

eSIM has drawn consumer interest, but carriers not wild about eSIM have been slow to introduce support. That’s partly because they’re concerned about high churn, Global Data analyst Lynnette Luna said earlier this month.

 RELATED: Apple adds eSIM to new iPhones

T-Mobile is working to secure its pending $26.5 billion merger with Sprint, which still faces opposition from a coalition of state attorneys general. The U.S. Department of Justice blessed the merger after reaching a series of agreements with T-Mobile and Sprint, which included a related deal with Dish Network to set the satellite provider up as a fourth national wireless carrier.

Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen, speaking on the company’s second-quarter earnings call in late July said, as part of that transaction, both T-Mobile and Dish must support eSIM. T-Mobile had previously said it was working on eSIM support before the deal with Dish was announced, but hadn’t provided additional details.

Ergen predicted that in the next several years eSIM will become the standard in the U.S from all the major carriers, based on the deal.

“You can imagine that we like eSIM because you when you don’t have many customers, it’s that easier when a customer can port their phone number and their hardware, without going into a store or physically putting something in the in the phone,” said Ergen, according to a transcript of the call. “So, if you don’t have a lot of customers, that’s an advantage.”

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Whether eSIM support from carriers will take off remains to be seen, but Luna said previously said it would require a marketing push from operators, as many average consumers aren’t aware of what eSIM is.

In other T-Mobile news this week, the operator hopes to draw new customers to its mobile service by expanding its “test drive program.”

Consumer can try out T-Mobile’s network for 30 days or up to 30 GB (whichever comes first) using their existing phone and phone number, regardless of carrier, by connecting their device to T-Mobile via a hotspot.