Seven IoT Predictions for 2017 - Part III: eSIM Matures, but how will Carriers Respond?

Alex Brisbourne

As we continue to explore trends for 2017, let’s take a look at how connectivity is facilitated. In the coming year, we should expect to see the maturation of portable subscription management via embedded SIM (eSIM) cards. And to be clear, we’re not referring to the maturation of the technology, but more about the commercial realization of connectivity opportunities. Because eSIM allows wireless devices to shift from network to network to optimize coverage, the opportunity to facilitate faster, more powerful IoT-based utilizations will be greatly expanded.

For a fleet management application, for example, such an ecosystem would all but eliminate disruption of service due to lack of coverage. This would create an environment where mobile M2M connectivity applications could seamlessly transition from one network to another, providing the strongest coverage and lowest price points. Such a shift is beneficial to those implementing IoT applications, but what about the carriers?

Their reaction presents the most interesting—and, quite frankly, the most important—facet of eSIM maturation.  Obviously, it would be understandable for any network provider to resist such a change—who would want to lose customer exclusivity? It’s a fair argument under the current business model. Currently, the vast majority eSIM solutions are really one plus one—a primary network and an alternative.

But what if such connectivity was facilitated by a wide-open infrastructure that allowed mobile IoT implementations to seamlessly on-ramp to the best network available—anytime, anywhere? In a recent article, Dr. Andy Tiller made the very keen observation that eSIM “provides a real opportunity to build new markets around devices and partnerships that would create even greater rewards and turn the operator into a provider of digital services,” instead of just a network provider.

If carriers embrace the potential power that eSIM provides, they could redefine who they are and what they do. Instead of being a network carrier, the industry could become a facilitator of mobile utilization that could greatly expand the way devices are used to connect—not the least of which is the rapid expanse of IoT.

In 2017, we will definitely see the seeds of IoT eSIM capabilities planted, but their growth will ultimately be dependent upon whether or not carriers are interested in embracing an admittedly revolutionary shift in how they offer their services.

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