Technology Trends

eSIM support in Qatar, UAE, and across the Middle East

Does one major global company have that much influence to spur adoption of a new technology standard? Apple's push for eSIM has already done that with the new iPhone XS and XS Max, as Qatar and UAE become the only two countries in the Middle East and North Africa with carriers that support it.

[Update: 13 October 2018 @ 18:30 GMT]

The Ooredoo Group has a presence across a good number of countries from North Africa to the East. Since they’re based in Qatar, it looks like Ooredoo Qatar is almost ready to roll out support for eSIM on their network once Apple enables it with their 11.1 iOS update.

With a little help of Google Translate and scouring the net for more countries in the Middle East that may support eSIM, the Kuwait-based chapter has already tested out eSIM support on Ooredoo Kuwait. The news was announced on Ooredoo Kuwait’s official Twitter account (below) and found one mention regarding this announcement on the Kuwait Times. Ooredoo also has a presence in Oman, so it’s only a matter of time before they extend eSIM support there as well to cover their Middle East markets.

All of this hinges on when Apple releases 11.1 for eSIM support, but it’ll definitely be before the end of 2018.

[Update: 02 October 2018 @ 17:30 GMT]

It may sound too good to be true but may not. Vodafone Qatar is already allowing its customers to use the new eSIM standard with the iPhone XS. For once, Vodafone Qatar has the upper hand against Ooredoo Qatar.

Don’t believe me? They’ve already published a video explaining that it happens when you visit their store in Villagio Mall.

[Update: 28 September 2018 @ 11:30 GMT]

Vodafone Qatar has limited availability of the eSIM at their Villaggio branch, given that the new iPhone XS and XS Max are now officially available in Qatar and other markets as part of the second launch wave.

If it’s any consolation to you, you were likely finding ways to buy the Made For China version of the new iPhone XS – it allows you to put two physical nano-SIM cards inside to use Dual SIMs on the same device. The rest of the world would get Dual SIM support in the form of a physical SIM and eSIM.

You may think it’s going the more proprietary route, but Apple has been known to push newer standards that became widely adopted. As Apple looked ahead and incorporated some form of a new SIM card type in the LTE models of the iPads, it didn’t spark the adoption rate by mobile carriers to adopt it. The iPhone XS and XS Max served as the perfect catalyst for it. The wake-up call nobody expected, and now more carriers are likely rushing to adopt it.

Although the UAE’s Etisalat launched eSIM support to allow the Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular model to work in the country, it was the only mobile carrier in the entire MENA region to support this.

Now it looks like Qatar has risen up – both Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar have announced that they are rolling out support for the eSIM standard. Both have been touting the roll-out of 5G, and it would have been an embarrassment that they didn’t embrace something novel as the eSIM to showcase the forward-thinking infrastructure for their cellular and fixed-line network.

The current tally for the Middle East and North Africa countries supporting eSIM now tallies to 2 – Qatar and UAE. As support for Dual SIM on the new iPhone XS will be enabled with a future iOS update later in the year, it’s definitely a hint that we could see more countries adopting it. Ooredoo has a presence in Oman and Kuwait, so we could see those countries rolling out support soon.

Beyond iOS, other Android-powered smartphone makers would definitely scramble to support the new eSIM standard. In addition, we could even see more eSIM-powered devices being widely available; it won’t just be the Apple Watch Cellular models, we’re talking about other devices that won’t be tethered to a smartphone and can independently communicate with each other.

Image credit: Taken from Twitter accounts of Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Qatar



  1. With iPhone owners who are in top corporate jobs in Nairobi, I see many of them having two iPhones and the reason is the battery life of an iPhone won’t last through an active, busy, day and so they will use one phone till the battery runs flat then switch to the other. So having two batteries trumps having two SIM’s in a phone. And others manufacturers of smartphone here – Oppo, Huawei, Nokia etc. emphasise the battery life (2+ days) of their phones as a key selling point over Apple.

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