News article

The Rise and Rise of e-SIM

Author
Eric Hatton
SVP-Solutions
28 Feb 2019

Network Innovation

Global eSIM appears set to make a major impact in consumer and IoT/M2M markets. It's a great leap forward but not a straightforward one.

Global eSIM appears set to make a major impact in consumer and IoT/M2M markets. eSIMs enable multiple mobile operators’ profiles to be generated, securely downloaded and provisioned over the air, based uponGSMA’s Remote SIM Provisioning specifications. It is potentially, a great leap forward but not a straightforward one.

The benefits seem at least superficially clear and with the 2018 iPhone generation already here (i.e. iPhone X(s), etc), and more devices coming from all the major manufacturers, mass market adoption seems likely over the next twenty-four months. However, technology transitions are rarely straightforward so what should we be thinking about?

Not as new as you think?

The embedded SIM has been in the Apple watch since v3 and Apple SIM has been around since the iPad Air 2 so the territory isn’t entirely new. MNOs who have already implemented solutions for the watch face a smallish increment to handle the new iPhone infrastructure but face a different situation when it comes to provisioning.

Whether we are talking about Apple or any other vendor, issues for operators to consider here include the need for a supporting infrastructure and the ability to answer new provisioning questions. There will be a need to align the network resources with the SIM profiles, i.e. the phone will attach and download the profile, and the network will need updating. This raises questions such as where the eSIM will attach on first use (a nominated single network to bootstrap all devices or some planning to enable per-country bootstrap management?)

A roadmap for how bootstrapping at volume will be managed will become a critical issue, as more eSIM capable devices hit the market, as each SIM will need an MSISDN and IMSI/network resource if performing the activation directly using the network; this is not such a problem when using the more unfriendly user experience of Bluetooth pairing or when volumes are low.

The shape of things to come?

If eSim is the shape of things to come, we can expect the number of connections on networks to increase by many multiples as operators bring low cost data plans to market. Subscribers will be able to maintain their phone number on one operator and purchase their data on another, or have multiple SIM profiles to maximise their coverage or obtain the best deal. This being the case, technologies that support Bootstrap Activation and management of key resources, such as: MSISDN, IMSI, ICCID, IMEI will become increasingly important. Something else for operators to consider now, before the wave hits.

Author
Eric Hatton
SVP-Solutions
28 Feb 2019