Smartphone users may be able to switch networks faster and more easily in the future here through the use of eSIMs.

Comreg is exploring the use of "Over the Air" or OTA, which allows users to download a profile for a network to an electronic SIM on the phone.

Many of the most recent smartphones have eSIMs embedded in them and they are expected in time to replace the plastic variety, but currently they are not widely used by Irish network providers.

If adopted they would get rid of the need for smartphone users to have to buy and insert a plastic SIM card into their device.

The development would speed up the switching process and make it a lot simpler for users to move networks, promoting competition in the market.

The process can be completed in a matter of minutes, without the need to visit a store or have a SIM card sent to you.

eSIM's would also open the door to the use of smartwatches with them built in, such as the Apple Watch.

It would also make it easier for machines that use embedded mobile connectivity, or the so-called Internet of Things, to communicate with other devices easier to be upgraded or switched over to better or cheaper networks, as they would not have to be visited to have SIM cards changed.

The communications regulator has opened a consultation process on the matter.

A new European Directive required member states to promote the use of OTA and decide which methods to use.

As part of the consultation process, Comreg has commissioned a report by experts WIK-Consult that looks at the options.

It finds that a key challenge in the Irish market would be the current limited level of eSIM support in consumers devices.

Comreg is therefore considering making it mandatory for Irish mobile operators to map out a plan for the OTA switching process within a year of the publication of its final strategy.

The consultation document also lays out the minimum criteria for what a best practice OTA process using only digital technology would involve for a consumer.