Orange Wholesale unveils eSIM first for France

Orange Wholesale France (OWF) has launched an embedded SIM (eSIM) for light mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), partnering with Prixtel to become the first French MVNO to be supplied wholesale to offer such technology to its customers.

The eSIM is designed to remove physical SIM cards for improved user experience. With an eSIM, consumers will be able to manage new subscriptions – or transfer existing ones – to eSIM-enabled devices in seconds, without having to visit a retail store. The number of eSIM devices is predicted to increase rapidly, reaching billions of users in the next few years.

Ovum’s Device sales forecast report: 2019-24 predicted in January 2020 that this year, 5% of all smartphones will be eSIM, and that this number will increase to 20% by 2024.

The tech firm sees six key use cases for eSIM: connected devices, adding other devices to an existing bundle in a few clicks; try-and-buy new offerings for three to four days before purchase; travel specials, where users tap a local data tariff for surfing, but are billed by home operators; connectivity insurance, where the user has no network coverage and needs to make an important call or send a message, and so any mobile network can be used; marketing campaigns, where business and marketplace models are used by other companies for special launches; and flexible business and marketplace models used by event organisers.

The first moves by technology companies in the area began in earnest with Ericsson, which in January 2020 launched an eSIM designed to remove physical cards for improved user experience and then, weeks later, introduced what it says is an industry-first entitlement server solution for on-device eSIM subscription activation without QR codes for Samsung smartphones.

OWF has more than 1,300 expert employees across 20 sites in France and coordinates Orange public initiative networks, as well as wholesale purchasing and sales activities in the French domestic market. Its customers represent over 600 infrastructure and telecommunications operators selling telephone and internet access services to private customers or businesses in France.

The eSIM functionality offered by OWF complies with GSMA standards developed for all operators worldwide. The functionality is designed to allow MVNO customers to enjoy new services. For users, it means simplicity, says OWF, with no need for an adapter, or inserting or removing a SIM card. Users just use their preferred operator’s mobile plan by downloading and activating their profile.

Other services are also available using this technology, as customers can also add a profile to their eSIM account. For example, this means they could switch between a personal plan and work plan on the same smartphone.

By allowing almost instant digital use by its new customers, OWF claims the new technology offers a clear competitive advantage. And against a backdrop of fierce competition in the French mobile phone sector, the eSIM announcement with Prixtel is said to reflect OWF’s ability to supply its partners with the latest technological developments, offering “innovative” solutions for the domestic wholesale market.

From summer 2020, Prixtel customers will be able to download an electronic SIM card to the latest smartphones that offer this functionality, and will no longer need to wait to receive their physical SIM in the post to start using their plan.

“Our ambition is to become the preferred partner of operators in France, notably by helping them to digitise customer journeys,” said OWF CEO Bénédicte Javelot. “That is what we are doing with our partner Prixtel, which has just confirmed its ongoing trust in our services.

David Charles, Prixtel founder and CEO, added: “We are delighted to be the first French light MVNO to benefit from eSIM technology, which will be the norm in the next few years. This reflects our promise to offer the best possible service to our customers by providing the latest innovations on mobile networks.”