Vodacom has warned its customers against activating embedded SIM (eSIM) functionality on smartphones using its network.

The feature allows users to link a mobile phone number from their carrier to a smartphone or smart device without a physical SIM card.

Vodacom has not yet officially launched eSIM for smartphones, although it offers the capability on wearables like Apple and Samsung’s smartwatches through its OneNumber service.

However, a MyBroadband reader recently pointed out that one Twitter user claimed to have managed to activate eSIM functionality on his iPhone on Vodacom’s network.

The user said that he had requested SIM be activated on his existing open contract at a Vodacom 4U Store.

He said that the eSIM was working in his phone, and shared a screenshot of his home screen showing both the primary nano-SIM and eSIM as active on Vodacom’s network, effectively working as a dual-SIM setup.

Faults will occur

Vodacom did not respond directly to a question over whether it now supports eSIM capability on smartphones but stated that its focus was still on wearables.

A spokesperson for the company told MyBroadband that they had observed particular customers with iPhone smartphones managing to get the eSIM activated.

However, it did not recommend that customers activate the service for smartphones, as it had been designed and provisioned specifically for wearables.

Those who opt to activate this functionality will encounter certain problems, the spokesperson stated.

“By utilising this method to activate their smartphone, the customers need to note that certain imperative functionalities and applications will stop working on their smartphone,” Vodacom said.

The faults could include:

  • Interruptions in banking OTP notification delivery/traditional SMS.
  • Intermittent WhatsApp message deliveries.
  • Intermittent or delayed SMS message delivery issues.

Vodacom did not elaborate on exactly how this design was not optimal for smartphones, but it is possible that these issues may be experienced due to the fact that Vodacom’s OneNumber eSIM service is intended to share the same number across multiple devices.

By contrast, eSIM support in a smartphone like one of the latest iPhone models would allow for the opposite, namely the use of multiple phone numbers in the same device.

eSIM delays

Vodacom was the first mobile network operator in South Africa to launch eSIM support in March 2019 – when it introduced the capability for Samsung’s Galaxy Watch.

While it beat MTN with wearable support by some seven months, the latter is currently the only network which offers eSIM support for smartphones in South Africa, after it launched the feature in December 2020.

This service is currently supported on a wide range of Apple and Samsung smartphones and tablets on MTN’s network.

Vodacom told MyBroadband back in July 2019 that it was targeting the first half of 2020 for the launch of eSIM support for the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone Xr smartphones.

However, this did not happen, and in response to a subsequent query during this period, it did not provide a timeline for iPhone eSIM support on its network.

Telkom also previously said it was planning to launch eSIM support by the end of 2020. However, this has not materialised, and the operator is yet to offer any form of eSIM support.