After the positive experience I had with my first eSIM download (see part 1 and part 2 of this series), I wanted to explore the topic a bit more, and decided to purchase yet another eSIM via the Airalo web portal and download it to my device. I did this because I wanted to see if more than one eSIM could be installed on the eSIM chip in the device, and if I could go back and forth between several eSIMs. Also, I wanted to see if I could perform the download over Wi-Fi instead of over an existing cellular connection.
For this test, I went for a “Eurolink” eSIM, which provides service in most European countries. And indeed, as hoped, I could download the eSIM over Wi-Fi instead of over a cellular connection after scanning the provided 2D barcode.
Also, as I had hoped, the eSIM was installed alongside the already exsiting ‘Hello! Mobil’ eSIM. Once installed, I waited for a long time to get cellular service, but the device would still not register to any network. I then realized that I should have read the instructions more closely, as this eSIM offer required manual configuration of an APN. When using the APN configured by the device, the network which provides service in Germany would reject the connection request with an Attach Reject #33 (requested service option not subscribed), while all other networks rejected the request with Attach Reject #15 (no suitable cells in location area). But once I realized my mistake and manually configured the APN, the device immediately registered to the Vodafone Germany network. My mistake!
I then had a closer look at the IMSI of the eSIM, which came from Telecom Lichtenstein (MCC/MNC = 295/05). Interesting! While the home network operator for this eSIM is different from the home network operator of the other eSIM I described in part 2, connectivity to the Internet also traverses an OVH data center in France (see part 2). Different home network operators but the same Internet connectivity! I sense interesting business relationships behind the curtains!
Next, I had a look how fast I could switch between the two eSIMs, one served by Telefonica/O2 and the other by Vodafone in Germany. After switching the eSIMs in the smartphone’s menu, it only took a couple of seconds for the network to be found and for the device to register. Same thing when going back to the other eSIM, my device even remembered the manually configured APN. This means that the phone definitely stores data about the network and configuration for each eSIM.
And last, but not least, I wanted to see if I could find out more about who is running the eSIM provisioning server (the SM-DP+). The domain name of the SM-DP+, consumer.rsp.global, is encoded in the 2D barcode, and a whois query reveals that the company behind that domain name is Workz. On their homepage, the company says that they are headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai. O.k. so I did a traceroute for the domain name, and the server really seems to be located in the UAE. One of the last routers that responded to ICMP packages was EMIRATES-IN.edge3.Amsterdam1.Level3.net. Also, ping round trip delay times of more than 150 ms suggest that the server was nowhere near Germany.
O.k. let’s summarize the number of countries in which companies are located that are involved in providing this service: The company behind the Airalo platform is located in Singapore, the home network operator is in Lichtenstein, the local mobile network is of course in Germany, the gateway to the Internet is in a data center in France, and the network management address for that data center has an address in the UK. And finally, the company behind the provisioning server is in the UAE. I guess one could easily extend this list much further if one starts to think about the ownership of the payment provider (Paypal), etc. etc.
But despite the complex setup, purchasing the eSIM, installing it and using the service was a quick and pretty much straight forward process. And like for the first eSIM I installed, data rates were not record breaking, but in the double digit Mbit/s range and thus quite adequate for temporary service while traveling abroad.
So far, only few devices support eSIMs, but I think the technology has finally arrived in the mass market, and the eSIM chip and the associated software are likely to be implemented in mid- to low-end devices as well in the not too distant future.