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Three UK Prepares to Trial eSIM Support on Mobile Network

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019 (7:41 am) - Score 34,259

Three UK has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that the long wait for eSIM support on their 3G, 4G and 5G network may finally be coming to an end. The mobile operator plans to launch customer trials “within the next few months.” Rivals O2, EE (BT) and Vodafone have already launched eSIM, albeit with varying different levels of support.

Most people will probably be familiar with traditional SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, which are the tiny chips that authenticate your identity to a mobile operator – when you slide one into a mobile phone or related device. SIM cards can also store a basic list of your contacts, although online contact lists have largely superseded that feature.

Meanwhile a growing number of new Smartphones (e.g. Google Pixel 3 / 4, iPhone XS / 11 Pro, Apple Watch Series 5 / 4 etc.) are shipping with eSIM technology, which essentially embeds an electronic SIM into your phone and makes it easier to switch between carriers via multiple account support (i.e. no more waiting for new SIM cards to arrive or fiddling with different ones when trying to change network).

EE has had eSIM support since 2018 via a number of mobile devices, while Vodafone presently only supports it on the Apple Watch Series 3, 4 or 5 Cellular and O2 went live with the technology in September 2019 (here). Meanwhile a big question mark has been hanging over Three UK’s eSIM support, which started two years ago after they confirmed their intention to support it.

Since then the most recent update from Three UK came via Twitter in May 2019, when one of their support agents said, “Currently we’re testing eSIMs for various phones to make sure you guys get the best possible experience. We expect to be able to support these in autumn 2019.” But when customers asked again last month they were instead told “we don’t have any concrete info’ to give at the moment.”

After prodding the operator for a few days ISPreview.co.uk has now been informed by a spokesperson that “Three will be trialling eSIMs within the next few months,” which sounds like it won’t be fully ready in time for the end of autumn as planned. The wait continues.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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30 Responses
  1. Avatar Mark

    A new tool to tie in mobile phones to networks disguised as a convenience. The new simlock is coming. Of course customers will not need to wait untill the SIM arrives by post, but wait if you want to change operator and your current one has other things in mind? It will not release your eSIM and you will not be able to just take the module out and replace it like with the regular SIM card. This feels like an apple idea.
    If someone knows to the contrary and this is not the case and a mobile phone owner will have freedom to manage their eSIM freely, then please do correct me.

    • So far as I can tell mobile phones with eSIM currently give you control over it and usually also include a traditional SIM card slot, although this may change in the future.

    • Avatar John

      Simlocks are known in today’s tech, rather than using software or code to unlock, it’ll be done via the os…. It’s means no more cards. Which is a bonus

    • Avatar CJ

      @Mark (OP)
      I guess you’ve never used an eSIM. Several eSIM’s can be stored on the phone at the same time and the user can switch between them at will. At least, that’s how it works on the iPhone.

      To use different networks the phone must not be sim locked, but that is no different to changing a physical sim.

      The biggest problem with the EE implementation of eSIM is that you need a new physical eSIM pack to move it to a different phone. Some networks allow that to be done using just an app but with EE if your phone breaks you’ll be without service until you can get a new eSIM pack from a store or in the post.

    • Avatar Mark

      Thanks for constructive feedback. Yes, I have never used a phone with eSIM, but based on the descriptions of the process it allowed me to conclude that there was room for limiting user control. I hope this stays as you Guys are describing.
      Thanks

    • Avatar beany

      “eSIM technology, which essentially embeds an electronic SIM into your phone and makes it easier to switch between carriers via multiple account support (i.e. no more waiting for new SIM cards to arrive or fiddling with different ones when trying to change network).”

      What happens when you decide to migrate with an Esim phone and take your number but the new provider F**Ks things up? Do you just end up with a brick rather than a phone until one of the providers decides to fix it? At least with an old phone if it came to it you could just get a new sim card, you may loose your number but at least in the mean time you would not have a £1000 paper weight.

  2. Avatar MR PETER G NIKOLIC

    This smacks too heavily of Apple and anything even the slighteset bit apple is something to avoid like the plague

    • Avatar André

      Like smartphones?

    • Avatar Audrey

      I concur. Best just to avoid all things Apple – over priced and over rated and I still can’t work out why the OS is described as really intuitive – tell that to my 75yo mum who can’t even work out how to turn it off. I rest my case.

    • Avatar Paul

      eSim is available on Android phones too, so your hatred of Apple in this case is misplaced.

    • Avatar beany

      I agree though maybe im just old but yep sounds like another thing for douchy companies like apple and their ilk to lock you in to their cult like claws.

    • Avatar Leex

      Esim built into every Google pixel phone (just disabled in the uk because no one uses it yet)

  3. Avatar André

    This has been “coming soon” for years.

    I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Avatar Mike

    I use my SIM in my phone and 4G router, with eSIM….?

  5. Avatar mike

    Why are they always so far behind? It took them ages to implement native wifi calling, and they still don’t support visual voicemail.

    • Avatar Mike

      Most places don’t even have 4G+ either.

      My hope is they have been holding back to roll out a decent 5G service.

    • Avatar Leex

      They still haven’t enabled global 4g calling on any frequency (I feel like I am in the atone age on three)

      Vodafone and o2 as it says it working but still drops to 3g to make call (unless you have a o2 or Vodafone branded phone)

      Ee/bt it just works as most phones have the ims built into the rom by default (well if it’s Samsung any way)

      No way we can turn off 3g and 2g if can’t get networks to push ims 4g calling settings over the air working so it just works (android has supported it from version 7-8 with more options for reading from sim card or network push in 9 and later)

  6. Avatar Stuart Parr

    I asked Three maybe 3 or 4 years ago if they’d support eSIM as a few Android watches had started shipping with them. They used to be pioneers but they’ve got a bit complacent lately.

  7. Avatar hv

    Curiously Three supports esims in many other countries they operate. At least in Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark and Austria. Is there something specific in the UK network that requires more work and testing?

    I have been waiting for this to be able to utilise the dual sim capability of iphones. Unfortunately I am with Three in the UK and not moving anywhere because of their data roaming thing, and my US carrier does not support esim…

  8. Avatar Connor

    Annoyingly Three is good at giving concrete sounding info but then backing down from it.

  9. Avatar Alagie

    The SIM card I don’t know how can I get it I am living in Germany

  10. Avatar Dimi

    So they are not planing to invest in the network at all. Still they will be worst network provider in UK. So pointless to keep up with the big providers when you dont have network to cover basic city.

    • Avatar Joe

      I’ve been with Three for over 10 years and they’ve been far better than Vodafone ever was. Faster to fix things, more generous with data, good customer service. I travel a lot and their coverage and risking services are superb.

  11. Avatar B b

    We should organise a demonstration

  12. Avatar Starz12

    I have a very old Vodafone phone, which unfortunately just about works now. When I first was given the phone, I said where do you put the sim card, only to be told there isn’t one. The number was embedded to the phone. The phone didn’t have a removeable back or able to change battery. This phone is at least 5 or 6 years old maybe even older. Unfortunately Vodafone was an awful signal in my area so I moved to 3 and never looked back. I really like being with them. I don’t like the idea of esims although I can see advantages and disadvantages with them.

  13. Avatar Ogilvie Jackson

    We need Three support for Apple’s Cell Iwatch.!!
    Let’s hope this happens soon with esim support… come on Three, get a move on !

  14. Avatar Smithy

    Still waiting for three UK to launch 5G they promised us in 2019 not getting my hopes up and the network is pants around London and Manchester slow speeds.

  15. Avatar Jeevtan

    Has any one used dual esim on iPhone? If so how is the experience?

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