Turkey has introduced the new domestic and national eSIM technology on December 24, 2020.1 The Minister and the Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, and the President of The Information Technologies and Communication Authority ("ICTA") presented the new technology to the public.

eSIM is a technology that can be summarized as an embedded SIM. eSIM has many advantages for consumers such as enabling switching networks easily without swapping SIM cards, as well as allowing for a temporary switch to another network instead of using dual SIM cards.2 However, this is not all: eSIM is also an important milestone in connectivity, as IoT devices can gain great benefits from it3 via the recent 5G technology and it is already being effectively used in connected cars.4

ICTA has published two decisions in this matter before, one in the beginning of 2018 and the other in the beginning of 2019 related to e-SIM technologies. Both decisions have brought fundamental changes especially as to requirements envisaged for SIM cards in motor vehicle e-Call systems and data localization.

The first decision5 related to e-Call services in motor vehicles. The decision indicated that it is mandatory for the SIM cards, eSIMs or modules having SIM card properties etc. to be procured from operators licensed to provide mobile electronic communication in Turkey, or to be programmable to allow them to be controlled by such operators. Moreover, per the decision, the eCall in vehicles, along with servers that will provide the communication system allowing for value added services, are to be located in Turkey and personal data in such systems cannot be transferred abroad without explicit consent. In fact, this very decision caused BMW to cease all ConnectedDrive services in Turkey as of June 30, 2019.6

With the second decision7 dated February 12, 2019, the localization requirements are no longer limited to eCall services only, and encompass all eSIM applications. Per the decision, all infrastructure, system and storage units including equipment and software related to eSIM platform in GSMA standards, shall be established in Turkey, by a licensed local operator (or by a third party to be appointed by such local operators, but liability remaining with the local operator). The decision also states that all data should be kept within Turkish borders. Moreover, where the devices manufactured to be used in Turkey or imported to the country have remotely programmable SIM (eUICC, eSIM/embedded SIM etc.) technologies, their relevant modules are expected to be programmable only by local mobile operators and only local mobile operator profiles may be installed, if such modules are used within Turkey.

On the announcement on December 24, 2020, Adil Karaismailoglu, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, stated that the new domestic eSIM technology has been established with national resources and by using up-to-date technology; will have a wide range of uses, from smartphones, wearable technologies, machine-to-machine communication to many industrial products. In his speech, Karaismailoglu emphasizes that the eSIM application is "100% domestic and national" and "Turkey's sensitive data will be completely in Turkey's control."

When evaluated with ICTA's decisions, this announcement can be an indicator that Turkey is following a localization-heavy approach for eSIM technologies. ICTA's and Ministry's approach in eSIM localization may create further localization obligations as the technology advances and expands along with 5G. Foreign machine or vehicle manufacturers, or technology companies planning to use eSIM and 5G technologies may have to face localization obligations and work with local operators, if they want to trade or operate in Turkish market. At this stage, there is no specific legislation regulating eSIM technologies, other than ICTA's guiding decisions on the matter but legislative expectations lean towards localization.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in March 2021. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here


1 See https://www.btk.gov.tr/haberler/yerli-ve-milli-esim-teknolojisi-kamuoyuna-tanitildi (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

2 See "A Guide To eSIMS", Emma Lunn, at https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/mobile-phones/esims/ (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

3 See "How eSIM is changing the IoT landscape", Silva, Luis C G, at https://www.information-age.com/how-esim-changing-iot-landscape-123490899/ (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

4 See https://telecoms.com/506320/telcos-eye-3bn-esim-opportunity-from-connected-cars/ (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

5 See ICTA's decision no. 2018/DK-YED/27 at https://www.btk.gov.tr/uploads/boarddecisions/112-tabanli-arac-ici-acil-cagri-sistemi-e-call/027-05-112-tabanli-arac-ici-acil-cagri-sistemi-e-call-22-01-2018.pdf (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

6 See BMW's announcement at https://www.bmw.com.tr/tr/topics/offers-and-services/connecteddrive-for-users/connecteddrive-bilgilendirme.html (Last accessed on January 26, 2021)

7 See ICTA's decision no. 2019/DK-TED/053 at https://www.btk.gov.tr/uploads/boarddecisions/uzaktan-programlanabilir-sim-teknolojileri-esim/053-2019-web.pdf (Last accessed on January 27, 2021)

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