Recent Development

The Information Technologies and Communication Board ("Board") published its decision on remotely programmable SIM technologies (eSIM) dated February 12, 2019 and numbered 2019/DK-TED/53 ("Decision") on its website. The Decision introduced certain requirements regarding the use of remotely programmable eSIM technologies in Turkey and international roaming.

What is eSIM technology?

eSIM, i.e., embedded SIM, is a technology that enables the remote use of SIM features without any need for a physical SIM card. eSIM allows device users to swap between operators remotely by granting the device users access to multiple mobile operators' profiles simultaneously. Detailed information on eSIM technology is available on the GSM Association's (GSMA) website.

What Does the Decision Say?

Pursuant to the Decision, if eSIM technologies are used in Turkey, the modules must be programmable in a way that allows Turkish mobile operators to have sole control and only mobile operator profiles in Turkey must be loaded on to the modules.

The Board also requires all structure, system and storage units of eSIM technologies, including the eSIM subscription management, to be established in Turkey by the authorized operators or third parties designated by the authorized operators, on the condition that all liability belongs to the operator.

Accordingly, all data generated by eSIM technologies must be kept in Turkey. All relevant operators must establish such systems at the location determined by the Information Technologies and Communication Authority ("ITCA") and must obtain domestic goods certificates for the system components to be established, used and subject to certification under the GSMA standards by February 29, 2020.

Unless the ITCA determines otherwise, obligation to comply with the relevant legislation regarding the services provided through physical SIMs will also be applicable for the services provided through eSIM technologies.

Importantly, the Board limited the provision of data services by mobile operators in Turkey through international roaming to devices manufactured or brought together with passengers or released into the market through import in order to be used in Turkey to 120 days, without discriminating between physical SIM or eSIM technologies.

The Decision is available here in Turkish.

Conclusion

The Decision is a reflection of the ITCA's concerns regarding the measures necessary to prevent the provision of machine communication services through foreign SIMs in Turkey and to locate servers to be used for eSIM technologies in Turkey. In this regard, the Decision is of utmost importance for not only mobile operators in Turkey but also for technology-oriented companies operating or intending to operate in Turkey. In particular, companies engaged in IoT (internet of things) technologies and machine-to-machine communication services should closely follow the obligations introduced by the Decision.