Two of the most significant events for the eSIM global market—the 2nd World eSIM 2018 Summit and the Mobile World Congress—took place recently, giving us a chance to take the pulse of the global eSIM market.
One thing became clear from these events – eSIM is ready to make an impact in consumer IoT and M2M markets. And there are 3 reasons for this rational optimism:
Even though coming from different horizons, stakeholders (mobile operators, MVNO, MVNE, OEMs, eSIM providers, eSIM remote subscription management platform providers, service providers…) are now well knowledgeable about what an eSIM is. Basically, multiple mobile operators’ profiles can be generated and securely downloaded and provisioned over the air onto a soldered secure element set into the device, based upon GSMA’s Remote SIM Provisioning specifications. The main benefits of eSIMs seem to be well grasped by the industry:
A ’yes-we-can’ attitude has replaced the skeptical naysayers for eSIM adoption. As Telefonica UK’s technology strategy consultant Abdus Saboor stated, eSIM is now widely deployed in M2M markets such as automotive, smart meters or vending machines.
As far as the consumer IoT market is concerned, the demand traction is instrumental: according to Arthur D Little’s survey, 80% of consumers show interest in a mobile eSIM-enabled device. eSIM technology is increasingly and successfully being tested in secondary devices. With more eSIM-capable smartwatches and connected PCs being available, like Apple’s new SmartWatch, Microsoft’s new Surface Pro tablet, the Google Pixel 2 phone, opportunities have risen in the consumer IoT sphere.
But stay with me…here’s the tipping point:
The 2018 iPhone generation (i.e. iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max) bear eSIMs. With almost 1.25 billion units sold since 2007, Apple’s flagship smartphone represents a fantastic widely spread platform for new usage education and massive eSIM awareness among consumers worldwide.
Consequently more and more operators, including Telefonica, have deployed eSIM remote subscription management platforms for consumer devices. The adoption of this technology from top consumer brands has been a major breakthrough of 2017 for eSIM mass market adoption. Additionally, the successful heavy work around eSIM interoperability done in 2017, has set another track record.
Jean-Christophe Tisseuil from the GSMA recently stressed that although the two eSIM provisioning and activation architectures have a lot in common, M2M and consumer eSIM dynamics are different. However, they share the following four features:
The eUICC and the eUICC manufacturer (EUM)
The Mobile Network Operators
Subscription Manager Data Preparation (SMDP) that is aimed at creating, generating, managing and protecting the eSIM profiles
The Certification Issuer (CI) who issues certificates for remote SIM provisioning entities and acts as a trusted third party for authenticating the entities within the network.
The difference in the M2M market lies within the Subscription Manager Secure Routing (SM-SR). For example, in the automotive industry, a connected car can initiate a remote subscription update over the lifetime of the vehicle, even when the car changes ownership. A good example is the latest announcement of Brazil’s Embratel to transform the connected car experience in Latin America.
On the consumer IoT side, based upon GSMA’s SM-DS Root Service initiative, the Subscription Management Discovery Service aims at enhancing eSIM connectivity activation for consumer devices, by simplifying the customer experience of connecting an open market consumer device to the mobile network with the offer of their choice.
These two markets will now continue to evolve separately with different technical roadmaps and deployment schemes. On the short term, the priority is given to key topics such as eSIM use cases in:
The transition towards eSIM is inescapable.
But this good news does not necessarily mean complacency or blissful optimism. There’s still some work that needs to be done, which includes:
At last, with the advent of 5G, we may even think of the new roles of eSIM in the 5G security, particularly in network slicing authentication.
And remember that beyond the migration path from the removable SIM to the embedded SIM, there’s also the integrated SIM or iSIM. In May 2018, Gemalto announced a collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies to integrate eSIM innovation into the Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform: it paves the way for iSIM commercialization on a growing range of Always Connected PCs, laptops and tablets.