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eSIMs 101: Installation and Activation

Does installing an eSIM means it is activated?

· 5 min read

If you're using an eSIM for the first time - or intending to use one - you might be wondering about what you need to do for the eSIM to work. In the many articles you read, or in the set-up instructions that you receive from your eSIM provider, you might have seen 'installation' and 'activation' being mentioned many times. In this article, we will explore what it means to install and activate your eSIM.

What is eSIM?

In today's digital age, technology is constantly evolving to make our lives more convenient. One such innovation is the eSIM, or embedded SIM. This revolutionary digital SIM card is built directly into a device, eliminating the need for physical swapping and making it easier than ever to switch between different mobile networks.

Simply put, an eSIM is a small chip that is embedded within a device, such as a smartphone or a smartwatch. This chip serves the same purpose as a traditional physical SIM card, but without the need for a physical card. Instead, the eSIM is programmed with all the necessary information to connect to a specific mobile network.


How Does an eSIM Work?

An eSIM works by storing multiple mobile network profiles within the device itself. These profiles contain all the necessary information, such as the network's authentication details and encryption keys, to connect to a specific mobile network. These information would be required to authenticate your eSIM profile and to establish connection.

With multiple profiles stored, you will be able to easily switch between networks with just a few taps on your device, without needing to physically change SIM cards. The eSIM technology allows for seamless switching between different networks, making it convenient for travelers or individuals who frequently switch between networks.

Installing an eSIM

You might be wondering - if an eSIM is already embedded within a device, why do you need to “install an eSIM”?

Well, unlike a physical SIM card, 'installing an eSIM' does not refer to the physical act of putting the eSIM in your device. Instead, what it really refers to, is the adding of your eSIM profile to your device. You can think of it like the act of installing a piece of software to your phone. This piece of software will include the necessary information that an eSIM requires to establish a mobile network.


How to install eSIM?

Although the exact steps of installing an eSIM could differ slightly from device to device, it is generally a straightforward process that can be completed in a few steps.

Your provider will typically provide you with a QR code. From your device's settings page (or the entrance point for eSIM installation), simply scan the QR code (or load it from your photo gallery, if your device allows for it), and the necessary information will be downloaded and installed on your device. Alternatively, you can also do a manual installation by entering the details of the eSIM profile (provided to you by your network operator).

Activating an eSIM

After you have installed your eSIM, you will also need to activate it for it to work. While installation refers to setting up your the eSIM profile in your device, activation involves actually connecting to the mobile network and verifying your account details to enable full functionality.

How to activate an eSIM?

With a physical SIM, activation is typically done when the SIM is issued; at a time stipulated by your provider; or in some cases, when your device with the SIM card is first connected to the network. All these happen in the background and is not visible to you.

In the case of eSIMs, there really isn't that much of a difference. Activation of your eSIM profile is something that the network operator would do remotely. While eSIM activation could be triggered by the same conditions as a physical SIM, some network providers may require that you enter an activation code or to trigger an activation request.


Does installing an eSIM mean it is activated automatically?

No, it doesn't.

As mentioned previously, installing an eSIM profile is simply the act of provisioning the necessary information for the eSIM profile; and activation of the eSIM profile is something that is required for the eSIM profile to work as intended.

It is definitely possible to install an eSIM first, but have it activated only a few days later. However, this really depends on the activation trigger of the network operator. If a network operator requires an activation code or manual trigger, then when the activation takes place depends entirely on when you decide to provide the code.

On the other hand, if a network operator triggers the activation the moment a connection with their network is attempted, then you will need to take note that the activation could be automatically triggered. In such cases, it is still possible for you to control the activation of that eSIM profile using your device settings.

Controlling eSIM activation using device settings

All eSIM-compatible devices allow you to choose between the various eSIM profiles on your device, so you can easily switch between them. If you want to install your eSIM but not activate it yet, it is possible to do so simply by ensuring that your eSIM is switched off on your device.

When you switch off an eSIM on your device, the device would not use that profile to connect to any networks. In such cases, since the eSIM profile will not be connected to the network, the automatic activation of the eSIM profile will not be triggered.

But it is important to note that toggling on/off your eSIM profile on your device alone does not correspond to the actual activation or deactivation of your eSIM profile on the network. The act of toggling your eSIM profiles on your device simply determines which eSIM profile your device should be using for its various functions.

How to activate a Nomad eSIM?

If you got a travel eSIM from Nomad, you would have received an email containing instructions of how to install and activate your eSIMs. Depending on the plan that you purchase, the activation instructions could differ slightly — one type requires you to manually trigger the activation, while the second type activates when the eSIM attempts to connect to the local network. (Note that data roaming for that eSIM profile should be enabled.)

If you are unsure of the activation process, refer to the email that is sent to your email. Alternatively, you can check the Manage page on your app. If your eSIM requires you to manually activate your eSIM, you will see an 'Activate' button.


Troubleshooting eSIM Installation and Activation Problems

Like any technology, it is possible that you might encounter some challenges during the installation and/or activation process.

Internet Connectivity

You will need a stable internet connection to install your eSIM profile. Since the eSIM profile needs to be downloaded and provisioned in your device, you will need a stable internet connection for the installation process. If you will be getting an eSIM for your travels, it is recommended that you complete the installation while you are still at your home country, so that you don't have to worry about not being able to find WiFi when you arrive.

Similarly, if the activation of the eSIM profile requires you to submit an activation code or to manually trigger the activation, then you will also require a stable internet connection. In such cases, it is recommended that you activate it right before departure so you can hit the ground running upon arrival.

Incorrect Network Settings

Incorrect network settings can also cause issues with the installation and activation of your eSIMs. If you have already completed the installation and activation of your eSIMs but are still not getting connectivity or signal, it is recommended to double-check your eSIM profile settings to ensure that the settings are correctly entered.

Be sure to also try restarting your device as it is sometimes required for the new settings to be picked up.