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Nigeria edges closer to e-SIM service rollout

MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile have secured approval to trial the embedded Subscriber Identification Modules (e-SIM) service in Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

It follows the NCC’s recent confirmation of approval for both companies to trial a national roaming service over a three-month period, scheduled to end on 31 October.

The roaming service trial, a first in Nigeria, is designed to test how subscribers of either telecommunications services provider can access each other’s network service without the need for a SIM card change.

While the trial has not officially been judged successful, the NCC has now confirmed it has granted the two mobile network operators the approval to test five thousand e-SIMs for a year.

NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said this will assess the technical performance of the e-SIM on networks with a view to eventual roll out “if satisfactory”.

According to the regulator, the trial will comply with regulatory conditions including guidelines on SIM Replacement 2017 and non-degradation of the Quality of Service (QoS) experience by users of e-SIMs.

It adds that trialling the technology will eliminate the need for physical SIM card slots on mobile devices in the near future, in line with what the NCC has called its forward-looking regulatory approach to the country’s telecommunications industry and ecosystem.

Around this time last year, e-SIM technology was launched in Sierra Leone through Africell.

Andreas Fink, whose Ethereum-based company Cajutel secured a license to build an internet company to bring high-speed Wi-Fi to Sierra Leone, said not much may change for normal end users with the introduction of e-SIMs - but that it's vital for IOT, which may still take time to play a meaningful role in Sierra Leone's mobile market with approximately 5.8 million users.

The case may be different with the Nigerian market with almost 200 million registered subscribers (MTN Nigeria still leads with over 78 million subscribers) as at June 2020.

Efforts to secure comment from MTN Nigeria proved unsuccessful at the time of publishing.

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