Key Concepts on eSIM and Remote SIM Provisioning

The process to replace traditional SIMs has already begun. Wearables were the first devices to include eSIMs, but that was only the beginning. Manufactures such as Apple, Microsoft, Google, among others, have position eSIM as a standard feature in their new devices. Sooner than later, almost every appliance will have an eSIM, and the M2M communications will skyrocket.

Businesses are developing smarter ways to improve connectivity for IoT devices. One innovation is eSIM technology which is disrupting the mobile market. Learn everything on this technology with our blog post How eSIM Improves Connectivity and Efficiency in IoT.

That exponential growth will only be possible with eSIM and RSP. Let’s make a quick tour of the key concepts about them to have a better understanding.

What is an eSIM?

eSIMs are embedded (soldered) Subscriber Identity Modules that contain the information that allows a subscriber to access a specific provider’s network. Traditional SIMs where pre-programmed, but for eSIMs that can be done remotely by a Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) system.

This technology is starting to be included in new consumer devices. To take advantage of it, mobile operators must adopt the technology. As it usually happens with disrupting technologies, the big ones will lead the deployment. Soon enough, the devices’ manufacturers will start pressuring to eliminate the SIM Card slot. 

What is Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP)?

RSP is a GSMA specification that defines how the process of remote Subscriber Identification Module activation/programming should work. This specification aims to simplify lots of processes in the lifecycle of a mobile service or an M2M service. It also creates new business models where a single user could have multiple operators (profiles stored in the eSIM) for different services like data service, long distance calls, roaming, etc.

RSP, as defined by GSMA, offers two different architectures. One focuses on Consumer Devices, and the other focused on M2M.

RSP for M2M

The first solution developed was RSP for M2M, mainly because of the fast-growing market needs. Three main elements can be distinguished in this architecture:

SM-DP (Subscription Manager – Data Preparation)

SM-DP main responsibility is to prepare, store, and protect operator Profiles. Is also meant to push (download and install) Profiles onto the eUICC.

SM-SR (Subscription Manager – Secure Routing)

SM-SR is in charge of maintaining the status of the profiles (enable/disable/delete). It also provides security to the communication channel used by the SM-DP to deliver profiles to the eUICC.

eUICC (embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card)

The eUICC is the element that stores one or more subscription profiles. Each profile stored in an eUICC is equal to a known physical, removable SIM card (of any form factor).

M2M Architecture

RSP for Consumer Devices

The solution for consumer devices is more complex because end-user interaction triggers many additional use cases. In this architecture, four main elements can be highlighted:

SM-DP+ (Subscription Manager – Data Preparation +)

SM-DP+ assumes both SM-DP and SM-SR responsibilities, as seen in the M2M solution. So, not only it creates, downloads, and manages profiles, but it also offers the required protection for operator credentials.

SM-DS (Subscription Manager – Discovery Server)

SM-DS guarantees that the SM-DP+ will reach the eUICC no matter what access network the device is connected to.

“This feature is important as devices can be connected using different access networks with different addresses. The SM-DS overcomes this by allowing SMDP+ to post alerts to a secure noticeboard and for devices to extract those alerts. It is used to notify the LPA when Profile data is available for download to the eUICC.”

LPA (Local Profile Assistant)

LPA is a component that must be included in the devices using eSIM technology. It offers the capability to download encrypted Profiles to the eUICC.

eUICC (embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card)

The eUICC provides the same function as described for M2M. 

RSP for Consumer Architecture


Main Difference Between eSIM and eUICC

eSIM and eUICC are sometimes thought to be the same “thing” when quickly looking to the RSP Architecture. Still, there is an essential difference between those two concepts. eSIM is hardware, and eUICC is software.

The eSIM is the hardware of the SIM where different profiles are stored. Keep in mind that traditional removable SIM cards only store one single profile. Then, to switch between operators, you must remove Operator A’s SIM Card and insert Operator B’s SIM Card.

The eUICC is the software component. It makes it possible to store multiple profiles in a single eSIM and let the user switch between operators almost seamlessly.


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