Apple and Samsung are involved in advanced discussions with the rest of the telecommunications industry to launch electronic SIM cards, a move that would significantly change how customers subscribe with carriers.

According to a report by The Financial Times, the GSMA, which is an association that represents carriers all over the world, will soon announce the agreement to create a standardized eSIM for devices, which would include the smartphones of Apple and Samsung.

The SIM cards being used today locks users into a single network. An embedded SIM, on the other hand, would allow users to switch between operators instantly, and will spell the end for devices locked to a single carrier.

Among the carriers that are expected to show support for the eSIM include Deutsche Telekom, Hutchison Whampoa, Telefonica, Vodafone, Orange, Etisalat and AT&T.

However, with the arrangement depending on the finalization of the technical details of the eSIM, it will take a year at the very least before devices that support the new technology will be released into the consumer market.

Apple released its own SIM card for the company's latest iPads. However, the SIM cards were supported only by a few carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States and only EE in the United Kingdom.

The eSIM will not be replacing the Apple SIM, and GSMA said that it is continuing discussions with Apple to gain the company's support for the development of the initiative.

As of now, the GSMA has determined a standard for the eSIM to be used in connection management in the machine-to-machine market. In this market, which includes traffic lights, utility meters and assisted living systems, the physical SIM cards are difficult to replace.

With the standard for an eSIM solution for the machine industry in place, an eSIM solution for consumer devices is next.

According to GSMA chief executive Anne Bouverot, who will be stepping down from the position this year, an industry-wide eSIM was one of the objectives that was established by the association over her tenure.

Bouverot added that around 3.7 billion people owned a mobile phone, which is already about half of the global population. Connecting the other half of the world, however, remains a huge challenge.

Bouverot thinks that there is much work to be done, however, in the development of the next-generation 5G networks.

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns  | Flickr

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