Singtel announces eSIM availability across 4G network

Wearables with eSIMs will no longer need to pair via Bluetooth with phones to use data, SMS, and call capabilities on Singtel's 4G network.

Singaporean telecommunications provider Singtel has announced that the embedded SIM (eSIM) is now usable across its 4G network, allowing customers to connect their smart wearables without needing to pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth.

The "SIM-less" technology involves a permanently fitted SIM, around 10 times smaller than a nano SIM, being pre-installed in wearables. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier LTE is thus far the only compatible device within Singapore, although the telco expects more compatible devices and wearables to become available in future.

The eSIM is activated with a QR code, with Singtel's eSIM profile needing to be downloaded to the wearable before mobile connectivity can be achieved. Those using a non-Samsung smartphone alongside their Gear S3 frontier LTE may have to install additional apps, however.

To facilitate connectivity for their eSIM wearable, Singtel post-paid mobile customers will be charged an additional monthly fee of SG$5.35, although the telco said this is the "promotional launch price", after which it will cost SG$10.70 per month on a 24-month contract.

Customers can also buy a SIM-only starter pack for SG$20, which includes 3GB of mobile data and 2GB of Singtel Premium Wi-Fi.

Standard Singtel Wi-Fi is currently unavailable via eSIM, but the company said it is "working towards making it possible in the near future".

Samsung's Gear S2 Classic 3G was the first device to launch a GSMA-compliant eSIM last year, after GSMA released the eSIM specification in February.

The eSIM specification has been backed by Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Huawei, Sony, and LG, along with chip makers, SIM makers, and telecommunications carriers.

"The initiative does not aim to replace all SIM cards in the field, but is instead designed to help users connect multiple devices through the same subscription and will help mobile device manufacturers develop a new range of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices that are better suited for wearable technology applications," GSMA said at the time.

It therefore also has strong use cases for machine-to-machine and Internet of Things devices.

Singtel last week announced upgrading its 4G network to allow speeds of up to 450Mbps for customers with compatible smartphones, also attaining speeds of up to 1Gbps in a trial of its 4G network with Ericsson.

The network upgrade was achieved by making use of 256 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) technology, which increases efficient use of spectrum by increasing the number of unique radio waveform shapes to transport a third more data.

Initially, only Singtel customers with Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge handsets will be able to access the 450Mbps speeds, as can LG V20 users once the latter's upcoming software update is released.

Singtel and Ericsson also announced that a live trial, conducted to the east of Singapore in Pasir Ris, saw them attain speeds of 1Gbps across 4G using 256 QAM downlink combined with 4x4 Multiple Input Multiple Output (4x4 MIMO) and triple carrier aggregation.

Singtel said it plans to roll out 4x4 MIMO technology -- which doubles the data paths between mobile phones and cellular base stations to double download speeds -- to high-traffic locations on its network next year.

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