Apple, Samsung and others are reportedly close to agreeing on a common architecture standard for an electronic SIM card, which would do away with the physical pieces of plastic users currently put in their phones and tablets in order to authorise mobile service.

The Financial Times reports the GSM Association, which represents hundreds of carriers worldwide, will announce the new standard soon, with the first e-SIM phones expected to appear around a year thereafter.

In a move the report says would “fundamentally change how consumers sign up to mobile operators”, Apple, Samsung and others would be closer to seizing control of the mobile subscription market from telcos like Telstra and Virgin.

Instead of going to a telco to sign up for a plan, receiving a SIM to put in your phone, the e-SIM would make it technically possible for customers to sign up for, switch and transfer plans from the handset itself. If regulators approved, this could allow device-makers like Apple to decide which providers and plans could be used on its phones.

Apple has already taken the first step towards this shift, last year introducing the “Apple SIM” — which allows users to sign up to a range of data plans directly from their device without replacing the card — in its iPad Air 2 in the UK and US. In Australia, Apple recently began selling the cards to make it easier to sign up for temporary data plans when overseas.

The Financial Times report suggests Apple could ship its 2015 phones (likely called iPhone 6s and 6s Plus) with an Apple SIM as a stop-gap measure on the way to e-SIM.

Possible benefits to consumers of the integrated SIM model include lower data prices, as the ability to easily switch plans drives competition.

It remains to be seen how keen local telcos will be to support an Apple SIM in an iPhone given how much control they stand to lose, although if Apple eventually plans to do away with physical SIM cards with its 2016 iPhone 7 telcos will have little choice.