Information Technologies and Communication Authority (“BTK”) in Turkey has published two decisions, one at the beginning of 2018 and the other at the beginning of 2019 related to e-SIM technologies. The first decision was specific to e-Call services in vehicles whereas the latter was in relation to remote programmable e-SIM technologies. Both decisions created a big buzz, especially with localization of SIM card requirement envisaged for e-Call systems in vehicles (preventing permanent roaming), automotive industry in Turkey has been very much affected and the decision prevented importation of new models to Turkey. Although the first decision was specific to e-Call systems in vehicles and leaving the M2M technologies out of the scope, the second decision of the BTK dated 12.02.2019 has turned out to be a game changer, where it strictly requires localization of data storage and e-SIMs regardless of the aim and type of the communication activity, for all devices including e-SIM technology. The second decision of the BTK determines a deadline date of 29.02.2019 for the compliance with the decision. The BTK implicitly states in the decision that they are entitled to deactivate all devices operating within Turkish borders which fail to comply with the decision.
With regard to e-SIM technologies in general
The above-mentioned decisions had the most influence on the automotive industry of Turkey. Considering Regulation No. 29806 on Type Approval Regarding the Setup of In-vehicle 112 Emergency Call Services which came into force on 31/03/2018 (“Regulation”) stipulates all the cars subject to the Regulation must provide e-Call services, but the situation has turned into a crisis upon the decisions of the BTK. The joint-interpretation of the decisions and the Regulation reveals the fact that newer cars must provide e-Call services and must carry Turkish e-SIM cards and store all the relevant data in Turkey. Automotive producers have mostly chosen to shut down e-Call services for cars approved before 31/03/2018 since they are not under the scope of the Regulation. Moreover, they could not import newer cars subject to the Regulation on the market since the cars were not designed in a way that complies with the requirements envisaged by BTK. A few companies have chosen to work with Turkish operators in order to comply with the decision for some of their most famous models, as a temporary solution to the crisis. It is for sure that the situation still remains unsolved for most parties.
With regard to M2M technologies
The latest approach of BTK to M2M communications is even more tangled. The second decision of the BTK surprisingly did not make a distinction between M2M communications and other types of communications using the e-SIM infrastructure. Although M2M communications are not evaluated as a way of electronic communication between humans by the global regulation trend, the decision of BTK seems to interpret all M2M services within the same scope with human-to-human communication services. This has led to the question of whether it is possible to either localize or shut down all services using non-local e-SIM technologies. Considering the quantity of all devices carrying embedded SIMs for M2M communications in Turkey and these devices were offered for sale well before the decision in compliance with the relevant legislation of their time, it is highly argued by different parties that the decision requires a clarification.
Despite the fact that lawmakers of Turkey and BTK claim to follow the EU approach on the issue, EU regulators seem to interpret the situation entirely different. The implementation report published by the European Parliament, examining the impacts of EU’s Roaming Regulation “Roam Like at Home” reveals the EU aspect on the issue of M2M communication. The report indicates that some of the Mobile Network Operators in the EU have expressed their concerns claiming that the national networks were dimensioned for domestic SIM cards and an increase in foreign SIM cards for M2M might produce capacity problems. However, the report denies the possible problems stating that M2M networks exploit low volume data communications for signaling and that M2M communication is deemed to be necessary and must be supported for the sake of better living standards. As it can be seen in the report, EU regulators do not share the restrictive approach on the issue as Turkey does.
BTK has reflected its intention numerous times to regulate M2M technologies operating in Turkey. However, we think that the said decisions of the BTK have not been very well thought. It is now clear that permanent roaming in Turkey is not allowed. Devices (brought to Turkey) have 120 days to benefit from international roaming but how such a restriction and localization requirements will work on M2M technologies in practice is not yet clear and very well understood.
Special thanks to Muhammed Demircan for his contributions.