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Comreg opens the door for Apple cellular Watch

The Irish telecoms regulator says that mobile operators here start provisioning eSim devices more, which could speed up the introduction of Apple’s cellular Watch into the Irish market.


Apple Watch Series 7, 45mm cellular model. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Apple Watch Series 7, 45mm cellular model. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Apple Watch Series 7, 45mm cellular model. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Apple’s cellular watch may be coming to Ireland after a regulatory ruling opens the door for more eSim functionality here.

The country’s telecoms watchdog, Comreg, says that it is going to “mandate” mobile operators to provider greater support for eSim compatibility in Ireland, which could also include “secondary consumer devices such as smartwatches”.

The watchdog says that it is likely to give operators 12 months to implement its new rules, expected by June of next year.

That could see operator support for the cellular Apple Watch by summer of 2023 at the latest.

Apple has not commented on any plans to introduce the cellular Apple Watch, which allows you leave your iPhone at home and still make or take calls, texts or stream apps using the mobile operator network, into the Irish market.

Ireland is an eSim laggard within Europe. Aside from slowing the introduction of devices such as Apple’s cellular Watch here, it means that switching mobile operators can take a lot longer than in other countries.

Over-the-air eSim functionality, Comreg says, “can reduce the time required for a consumer to switch to a few minutes, where previously this could take days, especially when a physical sim card needed to be delivered to the consumer”.

Given that the EU recently passed a directive on the issue — the European Electronic Communications Code — Comreg says the time has come to move on the issue.

“A key challenge is the current limited level of support for eSim for consumer devices among Irish mobile operators, which has resulted in Ireland lagging international peers in eSIM support,” Comreg said in a statement today. “For example, Ireland was among the last countries in Europe or the Americas to have any support for eSIM for smartphones and still has no eSIM support for secondary consumer devices such as smartwatches. To address this, ComReg is minded to mandate Irish mobile operators to provide fully digital OTA provisioning journeys for smartphones users within 12 months of publication of its final strategy.”

However, while Comreg thinks there’s a problem with a general lack of eSim availability in the Irish market, it’s not a sure thing that it will include smartwatches in its rule changes. This, the regulator says, is because “the benefits from OTA for such devices are smaller at present given the smaller size of this market segment” and “the benefits from switching for such devices are limited given that “processes for switching secondary devices [such as Apple Watches] are still developing.”

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It also doesn’t want to inflict too much extra costs on operators, whatever the rule changes might be. 

“Nevertheless, ComReg notes that no Irish mobile network operator currently offers eSim support to secondary devices such as wearables, despite this being widespread in comparable countries. While ComReg is not minded to included secondary devices in the scope of any requirement at present, this may change depending on the responses to this consultation.”