New telco startup offers eSIMs

Airalo takes advantage of telcos' growing interest in 'embedded SIMs'.

Southeast Asian travellers often complain about long queues on SIM cards stall at airports and know that it can’t always be reliable, particent markets. These still need to be bought outside or shipped, and pocket Wi-Fi devices do not always provide a stable alternative connection.

In response to these issues, Airalo has partnered with a number of telcos in order to provide ‘embedded SIMs’ (eSIMs). Instead of inserting a SIM chip for every telco provider, they can embed a rewritable chip inside a mobile device.

Buyers can freely choose a data plan and download the telco’s information into the eSIM chip, and the platform allows 15 eSIMs to be stored on an eSIM-enabled iOS phone.

“This enables a massive advantage for the traveller as they can keep updating the SIM to connect to local networks using the networks’ own connectivity plans. As we are partnering up with local telcos globally, the eSIMs we sell on our site will hold the same price as what you would pay from the operator’s website or from the stalls in airports,” explained Bahadir Ozdemir, CEO and co-founder of Airalo.

He also noted that eSIMs have less impact on the environment. A physical SIM card has a CO2 footprint of 21 grams, which includes the energy and water consumed in production. Meanwhile, the envelope and paper insert that accompanies each card adds another 10-15 grams of CO2.

Another opportunity up-for-grabs for Airalo is the fact that providers are also looking to include eSIMs in their product roster, Ozdemir added. Airalo obtained 146 eSIMs across the globe to its roster within the first six months of operation.

Airalo secured $2.31m (US$1.65m) in a seed funding round led by VC firm Sequoia last October.

“Airalo has a strong ‘why-now’—a new standard for e-sims that has just started getting mainstream adoption. We believe Airalo has a shot at using the new software e-sim platform to build an asset-light global telecom alternative," said Abheek Anand, managing director at Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore. 

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