Since the launch of the Google Pixel 2 and iPhone XS in 2018, eSIM technology has changed the way humans connect globally. This offers several benefits including convenience, as it eliminates the need for a physical SIM card, making it easier to change operators or plans.
An eSIM, also known as an embedded SIM, is a digital SIM that is directly embedded in a device, such as a smartphone or wearable, and can be programmed with multiple operator profiles. This means users can switch carriers and activate plans directly from their devices instead of physically changing SIM cards when changing carriers or traveling abroad.
For example, in Mexico, eSIM is currently available on some smartphones, such as the iPhone XS, XR, and newer models, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and newer models. The technology is also compatible with brands that offer unlimited data plans, such as Holafly.
eSIM can be activated through device settings and requires an activation code from a carrier that supports eSIM.
The GSMA created the eSIM technology in 2012, and it has become popular among consumers for its applications on a variety of devices such as cars, smart home devices, smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices. Apple widely adopted eSIM across its products starting in 2018.
IoT is expected to be the fastest growing sector for eSIM adoption worldwide, even though IoT growth has been slow as it requires upfront investment and proof of ROI.
Carrier adoption was initially slow, but has increased, and is currently used by approximately 200 carriers.
Subscriber Identity Module or SIM card is a small chip card that contains information such as phone number, security key and authentication data. Typically, the operator provides the SIM card and programs the information into the chip.
On the other hand, eSIM differs from the traditional SIM card in that it is integrated into the device and cannot be removed. This guarantees a continuous connection and a continuous flow of data.
With one eSIM, users can also download multiple clients from different carriers, allowing them to easily change carriers through device settings.
eSIMs are also more durable than traditional SIM cards, making them suitable for small devices such as wearables, IoT sensors and trackers. This feature helps developers to create more compact and powerful devices.
IoT is not a new area in the technology industry, and many of its applications have been successful without involving eSIM technology. However, leveraging eSIM for IoT offers significant opportunities.
Global connectivity has been a challenge for IoT due to the fragmentation of the operator ecosystem. This makes it difficult to build cohesive IoT solutions that can seamlessly connect across networks. eSIM technology has made it possible to connect to different operators without the risk of dependency.
By using eSIM, IoT solutions can be future-proofed as the need to physically swap SIMs is eliminated in the event of a network outage or operator change. This is especially important for IoT solutions that can be deployed in the field on a few low-complexity devices throughout the device’s lifecycle.
Using eSIM can also help organizations reduce total cost of ownership and maximize return on IoT investment through a converged operating model. Previously, managing multi-network technology in the IoT ecosystem was a major challenge. With eSIM, such a complex management system is no longer needed.
eSIM is also carrier-agnostic, meaning that eSIM technology is not tied to a specific carrier, meaning that the choice of mobile network operator at the start of deployment has no long-term consequences.
Whether embedded or removable, eSIMs designed for IoT devices can be programmed remotely according to the GSMA eSIM specifications. There’s also the option to integrate eSIM applets for secure authentication and network monitoring.
Another advantage of using eSIM technology is the streamlining of logistics. Eliminating the need for physical SIM card swaps makes it easier to manufacture and distribute IoT devices around the world.
eSIM can accommodate multiple network operators or technologies such as 4G and 5G, making it an attractive option for IoT solution providers. It also benefits original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that make IoT devices for distribution around the world.
Contactless provisioning, also known as remote provisioning or over-the-air provisioning, is a key eSIM feature that allows SIMs to be connected to different networks without a physical SIM swap. This feature makes eSIM technology future-proof and very attractive for global IoT use cases.
For companies looking to use IoT to improve business operations, as well as OEMs selling IoT devices around the world, having the ability to switch between different networks and network technologies is also beneficial. It is also particularly useful for OEMs who manufacture IoT devices for worldwide distribution.