Visible, Verizon’s digital-driven prepaid brand, is currently testing eSIM capabilities, but it’s not yet ready for prime time.
Visible’s eSIM plans emerged after BestMVNO reported about a screenshot that was supposed to be part of an upcoming promo and was shared by a Reddit user. The screenshot alluded to activating service in the Visible app using eSIM or a physical SIM.
A Visible representative last week confirmed to Fierce that the feature is “coming soon,” but it’s not yet announcing anything.
eSIM, which stands for embedded subscriber identity module, makes it easier to switch carriers because it does away with the traditional physical SIM card. But even though the concept has been kicked around for years and the GSMA developed an eSIM specification for consumer devices in 2015, it’s still relatively new in terms of actually being supported. Incumbent carriers are not exactly gung-ho about making it easier for customers to switch service providers.
Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research, said when he worked at Sprint for more than a decade, senior executives made it clear just how expensive it was if churn picked up even the slightest bit. “Carriers definitely view churn as enemy No. 1, and avoiding that enemy is something they’re committed to,” which explains why they haven’t jumped on the eSIM train.
Visible is still relatively new and doesn’t have a huge subscriber base, so it’s not surprising that it’s interested in eSIM. For an entrant just acquiring new customers, it’s an advantage to port a phone number without making someone come into a store and physically put something in the phone.
Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen has made no secret of Dish's desire to support eSIM, which was part of the government's deal in approving the Sprint/T-Mobile merger and setting up Dish as the No. 4 facilities-based service provider.
Another entity eager to support eSIM is US Mobile, an MVNO that launched in 2015. It already supports eSIM for international roaming and is about 60 days away from launching its domestic eSIM support, according to CEO Ahmed Khattak.
More handsets, including the latest iPhone, Pixel and some Samsung models, now support eSIM, which means no physical card is required for activation.
“I think in the next two years, more than half the phones in America will have eSIM,” and that’s when it gets really interesting for a company like US Mobile, Khattak said. Consumers could try out its service for, say, a week, and there’s no reason the company couldn’t acquire significantly more subscribers. “For us, we think eSIM is going to be the greatest equalizer.”
Launched in 2015, US Mobile now has about 250,000 users and ARPU between $25 and $30. It launched using T-Mobile’s network and added Verizon in 2017; it doesn’t acknowledge which carriers it’s using, but at the time, it said it was using the nation’s biggest LTE network, which it calls “Super LTE.”
US Mobile prides itself on being able to offer highly customizable plans – it supports hundreds of different plan configurations. With eSIM, it will be able to add customers in a matter of seconds.