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eSIM in China: the road ahead

eSIM momentum is accelerating. 2018 saw significant global developments spanning consumer electronics, IoT and smartphones. Apple’s launch of eSIM in its newest smartphones is a milestone for the ecosystem, with nearly 50 operators across more than 20 countries already supporting the feature. According to a GSMA Intelligence scenario analysis, by 2025 between around 25% and 40% of smartphone connections could be eSIM worldwide.

This GSMA Intelligence report looks at current and future developments in the eSIM ecosystem across several perspectives: technology, use cases, market outlook and challenges, and policy & regulation. The report offers a global perspective before focusing on the eSIM market in China. We look at the future outlook for eSIM across three segments: consumer electronics (wearables, tablets and laptops), smartphones and IoT.

In China, the most progress on eSIM has been seen in consumer electronics (particularly smartwatches) and IoT, while the smartphone market lags behind, with eSIM functionality not commercially available at present. China plays a key role in driving eSIM developments globally. It is the largest smartwatch market in the world and has the highest number of licensed cellular IoT connections; it is also a major global supplier of the technologies required to drive developments and growth in IoT, including sensors, microchips and other components.

To inform the report and complement our research, we conducted an eSIM survey. Nineteen ecosystem companies (Chinese companies or global companies with operations in China) participated, sharing views and insights on current and future developments around eSIM. The report explores key findings, including: which devices will experience the quickest eSIM adoption? Which verticals stand out in terms of expectations for eSIM adoption? What are the key challenges to eSIM adoption? What needs to be done from a regulatory perspective?

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