Man sitting in a car using the eSIM technology connected with his car and tablet
#Connectivity & IoT

eSIM ready to take off in consumer devices

Technical Innovation
6 Mins.

The multiple benefits of eSIM technology were first explored and realized by the automotive sector, allowing embedded eSIMs in vehicles to be exchanged remotely. Now this innovative technology has well and truly reached the mass market – and it’s set to take it by storm.

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.

Bernd Müller, Head of Technology, Solutions and Strategy, Division Trusted Connected Devices, G+D

Apple products support eSIM functionality

At the launch of its new iPhones in September 2018, Apple announced that all three new iPhones support eSIM functionality (eSIM was already supported in the Apple Watch and Apple iPad). Since then, Apple’s updated iPad Air and Mini now also support eSIM, in addition to all the new cellular devices announced at Apple’s keynote in September 2019.

According to IDC, 110 mobile network operators across the world have supported eSIM in Apple devices since the end of January 2020 – almost twice as many as six months earlier.

eSIM in a wide array of consumer devices

Other tech titans are now also using eSIM technology in a wide array of consumer devices. Samsung have implemented eSIM technology in several product generations of their smartwatches, and Google benefits from the advantages of this technology in its Google Fi service. Leading Chinese and Japanese manufacturers are also already testing and preparing for the technology.

Integration with further device types

Close up of a smart watch with eSIM technology
Innovative eSIM technology was first used in the automotive sector and now it’s set to take the consumer market by storm

According to the UN, by 2023, the average person is expected to have around four connected consumer devices. Managing billions of connected products using legacy SIM cards is a logistical issue in terms of activation and management.

Increasingly demanding consumers are pushing the adoption of eSIMs that can provide devices with permanent internet connection, and an agile workforce nowadays expects and requires always‐on connectivity and a frictionless experience when dealing with mobile operators.

Several tech incubators are presently supporting early‐stage startups trialing new consumer IoT and eSIM‐enabled devices, such as smoke detectors, headsets, and baby- or health-monitoring wearables.

Network operators are eSIM ready

Another key indicator that the eSIM is ready to take off in the mass market is the readiness of the network operator community for the broad use and implementation of eSIM. A GSMA specification now provides a global standard for the remote SIM provisioning (RSP) of consumer devices. All providers across the mobile industry ecosystem, spanning operators to device vendors, can embrace a framework that enables worldwide users to manage eSIMs in their mobile devices.

“eSIM technology has reached the mass market – even earlier than expected“
Carsten Ahrens
CEO, G+D Mobile Security

How secure are eSIMs?

SIMs in all forms still remain the security anchor to ensure that mobile applications and solutions are safe. The rise of eSIM technology does not change this fact. Security parameters of eSIM are arguably at the same level as that of traditional SIM processes and solutions. As Anthony Dornan, telecoms consultant at telecoms industry consultancy Delta Partners, says: “eSIM is a secure solution – similar to traditional SIMs – that retains both a hardware and software component for authentication.”

Even as the adoption of eSIMs takes off, security aspects of this technology are more than able to keep up. “eSIM technology has reached the mass market – even earlier than expected,” explains Carsten Ahrens, CEO of G+D Mobile Security. “The essential thing is to maintain, if not increase, the core foundation of security throughout. Our eSIM solutions combine the highest security levels of the traditional physical SIM card with significantly improved usability.”

Published: 19/05/2020

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