Remote Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card provisioning is becoming a reality for IoT devices. Embedded SIM, or “eSIM,” technology is opening doors to new innovations and business benefits enabled by enhanced connectivity and security.
eSIM dates back to the SIM cards used by cellular carriers to identify and authenticate subscribers on their networks. These integrated circuits originated in 1991 and contained unique subscriber information on a chip approximately the size of a credit card. By 1996, the form factor was drastically reduced which resulted in further adoption by mobile handset manufacturers. Over the next 20 years, SIM cards reduced in size and increased in capabilities. These traditional SIM cards locked users into a single carrier network and technology, making it inefficient and expensive to change carriers or upgrade to new cellular technologies.
Today, eSIMs are available to alleviate the aforementioned challenges by enabling remote, Over-the-Air (OTA) provisioning, eliminating the need to physical switch out a SIM card when changing to a different carrier network or different cellular network (2G, 3G, LTE, etc). eSIM is available in all form factors to meet the unique needs of each device. This enables IoT solution designers to build devices that best meet customer-centric needs, versus working around a particular SIM size and shape, or specific carrier network requirements.
Perhaps the most exciting application of eSIM technology is in IoT devices. eSIM is already in the beginning phases of being deployed with early adopters in the connected cars and industrial IoT industries. Among the many business benefits, eSIM technologies will reduce significant complexities for global IoT SIM card deployments where organizations traditionally relied on stocking, procuring, training, and managing various SIM card SKUs for each of the regions in which they operate.
The benefits of eSIM for IoT include:
Future-proofing connected devices. IoT devices that are deployed over a long period of time are protected from the impact of evolving network technologies, sunsets, or service terminations, by eliminating technical or carrier lock-ins with a single eSIM.
Eliminating SIM switching costs. Remote provisioning to different carrier profiles or network technologies enables organizations to eliminate the need to purchase new SIM cards and physically replace legacy SIMs.
Streamlining logistics’ management. With no need to physically replace legacy SIMs, organizations eliminate the process of managing costly and time-consuming truck rolls to dispersed geographic locations.
Maximizing return on IoT investments. By reducing costs and improving operational and logistical efficiencies, organizations are empowered to minimize total cost of ownership of connected devices and maximize returns on IoT investments.
The Road Ahead
Although some major cellular carriers are bringing eSIM solutions to market, their value is restricted to each carrier’s specific capabilities as they relate to coverage area, technology compatibility (i.e. 2G, 3G, LTE, etc.), and other value-added services. This limits these single-carrier offerings from adequately addressing the business challenges that eSIM technologies are designed to alleviate.
When selecting an eSIM partner, look for the following capabilities:
A Carrier-agnostic single eSIM: Seek IoT-grade and ruggedized eSIMs that are remotely programmable based on GSMA eSIM specifications, with the option to integrate eSIM applets for secure authentication and network monitoring.
Multi-carrier connectivity:Opt for a single eSIM solution that provide choices amongst carriers and technologies (2G/3G/LTE).
Single User Interface:Simplify eSIM-enabled devices with a platform that enables oversight across all network connections, with comprehensive provisioning tools, real-time reports and diagnostics.
While there are still technical challenges ahead on the path to ubiquitous eSIM usage, the promise of simplified deployments that can support evolving network technologies or complex logistical deployments are exciting. eSIM solutions will mitigate the operational risks of unforeseen network sunsets or technology changes while minimizing total cost of ownership over the lifetime of customers’ “things” – maximizing return on their IoT investments.