eSIM: A Game-changer for Mobile and IoT

Everyone knows that a SIM card is our lifeline to mobile communication – a physical chip inserted into a device to connect it to a network. But relying on physical cards entails a complex – sometimes manual – process that takes up time and resources. SIM cards are built by vendors, batches are stored and handled, and then distributed to stores. In this blog post, we will explore how eSIM will transform the mobile world, and why it’s crucial for IoT. 

Let’s talk about the current SIM card process: Once the chips reach consumers’ hands, additional steps must be taken (Figure 1):

  • The consumer must contact a network operator and establishes a contract.
  • The network operator gives the consumer a SIM card to connect to their network.
  • The consumer must physically insert the chip into the device.
Figure 1: SIM installation with Operator A

And if the user wants to switch to another operator? He must repeat the process all over again with the new operator.

Figure 2: SIM installation with Operator B

This process poses disadvantages for both parties:

  • The network operator has to produce, store and distribute chips to every store. 
  • The end user has to rely on the chip to connect to the network and insert it into the device. 
  • But that’s not all! The biggest conundrum that must be solved in the near future is: When purchasing IoT or M2M devices, one has to choose the network operator beforehand. It is very hard to change the network operator after deploying the device.

What is the role of operators within the digital IoT transformation? Check out Looking Beyond the IoT Platform to learn more.  

eSim – The Future of Mobile and IoT 

eSim stands for “embedded SIM,” a standard promoted by GSMA. An eSIM is a chip that has the capability to store multiple programmable “profiles”. Each profile loaded into an eSIM has the same data that a traditional SIM.

With the eSIM architecture, the process described above would look like this (Figure 3):

  • The consumer contacts a network operator and establishes a contract.
  • The network operator provides a QR code to the consumer to retrieve the profile. 
  • The device downloads the profile into one of the available slots.
  • The consumer confirms profile download and activates the subscription.

Note that the whole process can be done online or over the phone, eliminating the need for the consumer to visit a store or for the operator to distribute and stock physical SIM cards. 

Figure 3: Profile installation and activation with Operator A

If the user wants to switch operator, he must repeat the process (Figure 4). The user may have more than one profile installed (though only one can be active). 

Figure 4: Profile installation and activation with Operator B

eSIM – Top Five Advantages 

  • The network operator doesn’t have to build and distribute chips. The generation of profiles is on demand, instant, and can be carried out anywhere.
  • The consumer doesn’t have to go to a store to get a SIM card. 
  • Because the data downloaded and stored inside the eSim is the same as in SIM cards, the same capabilities are available.
  • Since the chip doesn’t need to be removed, the eSim can be welded in the device, allowing smaller sizes (Figure 5).
  • Since the chip can be welded at manufacturing time and later configured by setting profiles, IoT device users don’t need to choose their operator beforehand. This is one of the major advantages. Smart cars and smart wearables are already using this approach. 

eSim is the future – a win-win for everyone. But to be massively adopted, all major network operators must embrace this new technology. And then smaller operators will follow.

Will mobile operators be left behind during the IoT tranformation? We say “no way, Jose”. See why in the blog post Looking Beyond the IoT Platform. 

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