Truphone now offers iPad data plans in the UK through the Apple SIM

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Apple has yet to make any moves to expand the Apple SIM to devices beyond the iPad (despite occasional flurries of rumors to the contrary), but the number of carriers that work with the Apple SIM is growing, potentially laying the groundwork for a time when it might.

Today comes the latest development on that front. Truphone, a UK startup that crafts low-cost calling and data plans for users by using software to patch together capacity from multiple carriers — with an emphasis on giving users the ability to use their allowances while roaming in other countries for no extra charge — today announced that it now offers data plans for iPad users in the UK via the Apple SIM.

The integration means that users can select Truphone as their carrier “as easily as they can select and open an app,” in the words of Steve Alder, chief business development officer at Truphone, and then use the iPad in 40 countries as if they were still in the UK. Alder previously worked at O2 in the UK, where he brokered the landmark deal for O2 to become the first carrier to have the iPhone in the UK, way back in 2007.

Truphone announced earlier this year that it would be rolling out international data plans for the Apple SIM across multiple geographies, and it has been doing just that: you can now buy the Truphone service via the Apple SIM in six countries including the UK, Spain, Poland and Hong Kong.

“We are looking to increase the number by end of this year to 30, and then 50 by next year,” said Alder. 

The move is interesting because up to now Truphone has been focused mainly on providing services that are used in phones. This is a sign of how it’s tapping into the growth of eSIMs — which are software-based rather than chips that the user have to physically place into devices in order to swich carriers — to expand its business, and also how companies like Apple that are using eSIMs in their devices are gradually starting to see more traction among carriers.

Carrier resistance to eSIMs has reportedly been one reason why we have not seen these make their way to more phones. One issue that they make it very easy to switch providers, which of course is not collectively in carriers’ interest because not only will it lead to higher customer acquisition costs and churn, but could help usher in more competitors to a system that has largely been locked down.

“We would predict that the eSIM is coming to smartphones in the near term,” said Alder. “In Asia you’ll find there are a number of Chinese providers who have eSIM on smartphones, and if you see it in one part of the world, it will spread. And if you see it on tablets in the Western world, it’s a fair prediction to say it will be on other devices.”

Other carriers that provide access to their data plans via the Apple SIM include EE and Three in the UK, and AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.

In the first half of 2017, Truphone said its Ebitda was up 60 percent on the year before and it is expecting 30 percent growth for the full year of revenues. Truphone is currently valued at £300 million ($390 million in current currency), with its last round of £75 million ($97 million) coming in 2013. Minden and Vollin Holdings, two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the football club Chelsea among other things, own an 83 percent stake in the business.

Truphone’s Apple SIM plans are sold in increments of 500MB, 1GB and 3GB and are sold in 30-day plans respectively at €7, €11 and €25. They currently work with on the iPad Pro 10.5”, iPad Pro 12.9” (second generation) and iPad Pro 9.7” WiFi + Cellular models, and is compatible with iPad 5th generation, iPad Pro 12.9” (1st generation), iPad mini 4 and iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular models whenever you are away from a WiFi connection and need to use a cellular network to connect.