MTN eSIM details and activation comprehensively explained

MTN, one of the telecom operators in Nigeria recently debuted the eSIM innovative technology for its subscribers in the country. The popular operator which is putting the technology on trial for a year, would help its customers in the setup procedure upon a visit to one of their stores. This setup exercise, according to the popular operator, would be for free and done on a first-come-first-serve basis.

This trial according to Mazen Mroue, Chief Operating Officer, MTN Nigeria, was accented to by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, and spearheaded by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The operator boast of being the first telco to implement the technology in West Africa.

MTN eSIM feature

In the African region at large, South Africa is the other country which has the technology successfully implemented.

What is an eSIM?

An e-SIM or embedded SIM is an innovative type of the subscriber identification module (SIM) which is permanently embedded in smartphones, smart devices and wearables. By being permanently soldered to these gadgets, users wouldn’t be able to insert or retract these modules, however this technology offers flexibility in a stirring way.

This type of SIM would take a much reduced space in a gadget, meaning more freed room for other components. Additionally, due to its glued nature to a device, it would stand a chance against shocks and vibrations. Smart cars which are able to interact with nearby intelligent devices greatly require a SIM card for connectivity. And e-SIMs by virtue of being embedded wouldn’t only be resistive to shocks, but would allow remote profile switching — changing conveniently between carriers without necessarily changing a SIM card.

esim explained

Travelers to Nigeria would find it indispensable; there would be little need to pay outrageous sums as roaming charges if MTN is the choice destination carrier for these voyagers. Although eSIMs theoretically support addition of multiple profiles from different operators, for the meantime, only a single eSIM profile can be installed. Additionally, one wouldn’t presently be able to retain a primary mobile number while switching from a network to another using this embedded SIM protocol, although ideally that was the intention.

Devices which support the MTN Nigeria eSIM technology

For the meantime, and as at time of writing, the following are the supported devices for MTN eSIM technology.

BrandCompatible Phones
GooglePixel 3, 3 XL
Pixel 4, 4 XL
AppleiPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max
iPhone XS, XS Max
iPhone XR
SamsungSamsung S20 Series

MTN esim

How to install your MTN eSIM profile

Let’s consider an eSIM as a virtual SIM card, a SIM which is software empowered. To activate it, the contents of a profile is downloaded through a supported device to the embedded SIM using an internet connection. The software provided by the device could then afterwards be used in making changes to the SIM.

Installation of the MTN eSIM profile takes place at a recognized MTN store. Nonetheless, the operator has outlined the process by which it could be activated. Generally, at the store, you will be provided with a QR code. You need to scan the code in order to download the eSIM profile, and after that, you would be required to carry out the necessary registration of the SIM profile, as demanded by NCC.

The following are the installation procedures provided by MTN for Google Pixel 3 and iPhone devices.

e-SIM QR code


  • First, you need to get the QR code from our (MTN Nigeria) customer care agent.
  • Go to Settings>Cellular.
  • Tap add a cellular plan.
  • Scan QR code which you have received from our customer care agent.
  • Our customer care agent will associate the SIM serial and PUK number on the QR code with the new phone number.

Google Pixel 3

  • From the settings go to Network & internet and select Mobile Network.
  • Expand Advanced then press Carrier and Add Carrier.
  • Scan your QR code which you have received from our customer care agent.
  • Our customer care agent will associate the SIM serial and PUK number on the QR code with the new phone number.

With an MTN eSIM you would still be able to perform conventional SIM operations

MTN says its eSIM technology which is presently on a trial would bear similarities to the physical module used by most of its subscribers. Regular activities like checking of account balance, line recharge, and data subscription could be done as conventional.

To put it comprehensive: theoretically, you should still be able to perform all the operations which you’ve been making with a physical SIM. It would be even more flexible using an eSIM as authentication of a new profile would turn virtual, rather than physically through an agent.

If you presently posses an eSIM device, you can easily, according to the operator, swap your SIM module for an eSIM profile. This would be done at any authorised outlet, and you would retain your MSISDN (phone number) despite the switch. If ever you intend going back to possessing a physical SIM, the MTN operator says that could at your indication be made for you. The telco says the cost of activation of its eSIM is N0.00 (free). However, be prepared to pay for the SIM pack; it would probably be priced at the cost of a physical card. Some frequently asked questions pertaining to the new SIM technology by the operator has been unreservedly answered by the operator.

Why the innovation may not be wholly implemented in Nigeria anytime soon

One of the probable drawback of the eSIM technology is the tentative adoption by MNOs (telecom carriers). Aside MTN Nigeria, no other telecom operator in the country has shown intent in adopting the technology. This lack of intent would surely lead to a delay in the wholesome installation of an embedded SIM card on mobile devices by phone makers.

Another standout reason the technology would take some donkey years to be thoroughly adopted is due to the unimpressive numbers of smartphone users in the country. A 2019 report by geopoll estimates that only about 32% of the population owns a smartphone. This is dismal when compared to South Africa which has more than half of its population in ownership of at least one smartphone. South Africa, Ghana, and Senegal have a smartphone penetration of 51%, 36% and 34% respectively to occupy the first to third spot, the report evaluated. Nonetheless, Nigeria and Etiopia are the two countries prospectively labelled would witness the fastest growth in telecommunication by 2025.

sim innovation

Transsion holdings is the major phone manufacturer in Nigeria, and holds a key position in the African smartphone market. The makers of popular household brands Tecno, Itel and Infinix would need to be engaged in the speedy adoption of the eSIM technology in Nigeria.

MTN eSIM launches in other countries

MTN forayed into the eSIM technology with its launch in South Africa.

The Mobile Network Operator made real its intent of giving the innovation a try in October 2019, just after launches by the country’s industry leader Vodacom and new entrant Rain telecoms.

MTN’s launch of the e-Sim technology in South Africa was however for its postpaid subscribers who possess a Samsung Galaxy Watch 42mm. According to press cuttings, these watches are only available to MTN customers purchasing a 2-4-1 deal with the Samsung Galaxy Note10 or Note10+ on the newly upgraded MTN Made for Me or Sky Price plans.

Putative rationale behind MTN’s launch of an eSIM

MTN’s primal trial of the eSIM technology in the continent’s largest economy comes with no zero intention, especially as there’s no counter move from other operators in the country or at least a slight indication of this technology by them.

new sim technology

A handy guess is that the popular operator intends to imprint a statement of preeminence in the country’s telecom ambience. This would surely build trust within its subscriber base and might positively influence prospective mobile network subscribers naturally to the network.

Another reason MTN might have considered premiering the technology in the West African soil might be because of its evenness and control in the market. Owing to the fact that the MTN brand is well grounded and respected in Nigeria, it would be less affected by any mass exit off the network in the event the technology is wholly implemented — considering the ease in switching between operators, made possible with the technology.
Presently, the other major telecom operators Airtel, Glo and 9mobile are still tending cold feets — making no mention of the nascent innovation.


A potential electrical/electronics engineer in the making, a phone addict and a motivating partner.While he's not researching through with his phone, Daniel spends his time with the books.★ Fav. quote: The habit of persistence is the habit of victory! ★

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