Airtel Kenya has followed Jamii Telecom and Safaricom in rolling out digital SIM cards that will eliminate the need for a physical one. The e-SIM allows seamless switching from one mobile network to another.
This launch follows the trend in other markets such as Nigeria, where the telco launched the e-SIM in January. The launch was oversaw by the Airtel Africa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Segun Ogunsanya.
The telco is promising Kenyans ‘endless possibilities’ with the technology that allows as many as five virtual SIM cards to be stored on one e-SIM at a time and also eliminates the frequent complaints of damage or loss of the cards.
“Kenya is the second country on the continent where we are launching the e-SIM. It is environmentally friendly and offers endless possibilities in terms of convenience and ease of use. I am sure this will transform the customer experience,” said Ogunsanya.
An e-SIM is a small chip placed in smartphones, tablets and wearables that you can use to connect to cellular networks across the globe without the need for a physical SIM card.
Jamii Telecom Limited pioneered this technology in Kenya when it launched for its Faiba 4G in 2021. Safaricom followed suit shortly after but the uptake has been slow given that it runs on select handset and costs more. One also has to visit the shops physically to get an e-SIM.
Jamii Telecom set the price at Ksh 150 (App. A dollar) for existing Faiba 4G customers while new clients pay Ksh 300 ($2). Safaricom, on other hand, set its rate at Ksh 150 (App. A dollar) for current customers and Ksh 250 (App. Less than $2) for new ones.
Airtel says current or new customers seeking the e-SIMs will pay Ksh 100 (Less than a dollar), with the technology being available on 20 iPhone models, 18 models of Samsung devices and select other models of Nokia, Motorola and Google Pixel.
Safaricom e-SIMs are currently supported on six models of iPhone— XR, XS, XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 12 and iPhone SE 2020— and three models of Samsung—S21, Z Fold and Note 20.
Airtel customers can download the e-SIM by scanning the QR code issued by the telco’s agents. But they will first have to check the compatibility of their phones by dialling *#06#.
One of the technology’s limitations is that transferring a person’s number to another device requires a fresh SIM swap and scan of a new QR code.