Juniper Research forecast the value of the global e-SIM market will increase from $4.7 billion in 2023 to $16.3 billion by 2027, largely driven by increased adoption in consumer devices.

In addition to consumer smartphones, e-SIM is also used in IoT and other industrial and public verticals.

While e-SIM technology isn’t new, US operator AT&T first used it in iPads in 2014, Juniper Research stated Apple’s decision in November to offer e-SIM-only iPhone 14s in the US accelerated operator support.

The research firm predicted Apple would expand the deployment of its e-SIM-only iPhones across Europe in 2023, which would minimise the time-consuming establishment of roaming agreements across the fragmented market.

Juniper Research found the total number of smartphones using e-SIM will increase from 986 million this year to 3.5 billon by 2027 with manufacturers such as Samsung and Google developing e-SIM-only Android devices to compete with Apple.

Google has offered dual SIMs on its Pixel smartphones for some time while some recent Samsung Galaxy models come with e-SIM.

US operators embrace e-SIM
One of the previous concerns by operators about dropping a physical SIM slot in favour of a virtual module was it made it easier for customers to switch operators.

“Despite operator concerns regarding the disruptive impact of e-SIMs on existing business models, growing support from smartphone manufacturers will place additional pressure on operators,” stated Juniper Research principal analyst Scarlett Woodford in a press release. “In response, service providers must support e-SIM connectivity to avoid subscriber attrition as technology awareness increases.”

In an interview with Mobile World Live in 2022, assistant VP device architecture for AT&T Jason Sikes said the year was a “huge” step forward for e-SIM only-devices due to Apple’s launch.

“It is now without question front and centre so that’s driven a lot of effort both on the technology side and on the business side to make sure we’re prepared for that. It has gone very well for us and for the ecosystem,” he stated.

T-Mobile US was ahead of Apple’s iPhone 14 e-SIM announcement with the launch of its e-SIM programme Easy Switch in August 2022.

US operator Verizon also threw its weight behind e-SIM in 2022, which included a 30-day trial that allowed potential customers with e-SIM capable devices to use its 5G network for free.

Juniper Research also found that India and China will account for 25 per cent of the smartphones using e-SIM by 2027, but noted current regulations prevent Chinese-based device manufacturers from selling to their home markets.