eSIMs, first introduced back in 2012, have the same performance functionality as traditional SIMs – storing unique subscriber ID, authentication keys, and mobile applications. However, they also provide an additional range of benefits beyond those of a traditional SIM. This is because they are soldered directly onto the mainboard of a vehicle’s on‐board unit or other connected devices – overcoming the challenges of the legacy removable SIM.
These benefits were first explored and realized by the automotive sector. As the concept of the “connected car” came to life, and cars became more digitalized, it urgently became necessary for connectivity to be built into the vehicles. However, if a user/manufacturer wanted to change to a different mobile network operator (MNO), they would be unable to easily switch out the traditional SIM card, as you would in a phone. The flexibility of the eSIM offered the perfect solution for the automotive industry, allowing embedded SIMs within a car to be changed remotely.
The needs of the digitalized automotive industry served as a main initial driver of eSIM technology’s arrival on the mass market. Next came the rise of high‐tech consumer devices, such as smartwatches.
The sleek product designs, often needing to be fully sealed and waterproof, could not adequately accommodate traditional SIM cards and their SIM slots. eSIMs offered a seamless solution.
The continued development of smart devices, such as tablets and smartphones with sleeker, smaller designs, fueled the rise of eSIM technology in consumer devices. Since 2018, eSIM‐ready phones have been commercially available – and they are set to take the market by storm.