eSIM has been a buzzword for some time now. It all started when Apple launched its first eSIM-enabled series – iPhone X, back in 2017. The excitement, however, began when Apple introduced its eSIM-only iPhone14 in the United States in 2022.
Most new smartphones in the market support eSIM. They mostly come with an option of the conventional SIM though. But after 2022, many smartphone makers are preparing themselves to launch their eSIM-only devices. This means soon we can imagine a world that would not need the physical SIM. Of course, local government initiatives will play a crucial role in this. It will also depend on local network operators and how quickly they can start providing eSIM support. More importantly, in this circumstance, user awareness will decide the actual demand. This is not only true for consumer devices but also for M2M devices.
SIM card technology has been continually advancing since its inception. In fact, you can refer to one of our articles on this where we have briefed about the inception of SIM technology and the challenges we face with physical SIMs. [Click here to read the article.] In this article, we will look in depth at the solutions that we know more popularly as the eSIM. But first, we must grasp how it differs from a physical SIM. So let’s get started.
What is the difference between SIM and eSIM?
The first and foremost difference between SIM cards and eSIM technology is that no physical token is provided to the user. Instead, data from the SIM card is securely exchanged over the air between the operating system and the consumer device.
In the telecom sector, this information is frequently referred to as a profile. However, this profile data, which comprises crucial and critical information such as IMSI and secret keys, can no longer be stored in the device’s normal memory. Instead, we have a new chip in the system called the eUICC (embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card). In the SIM world, this eUICC is known as eSIM or eSIM profile.
After securely downloading the profile into the eUICC, it may be used for identity and authentication just like any other physical SIM card. Furthermore, the eUICC can save several profiles, which the end user can switch via the device’s settings menu.
The Problem eSIM is Solving
Now that we have learnt the basic difference between a physical SIM card and an eSIM, let’s look at how eSIM is addressing the challenges in both M2M and consumer device markets.
M2M Market: Starting with M2M, let’s look at the solutions that eSIM brings along with it.
Physical Attributes: There are no more vibration issues because it is directly soldered into the device. There are no temperature, humidity, or pressure issues as well because the 3*5 mm chip is more resilient than plastic pluggable cards.
Cost-effective: There is no longer a requirement to send a test engineer to the field to open the machine and replace the SIM card because eSIM device makers allow the service provider to push the profile remotely. Having multiple devices globally deployed saves the company time and money.
Security: Another consideration is security. Since the SIM is embedded directly into the device, there is no risk of it being removed or lost during transportation or installation, as there is with traditional SIM cards.
Remote Management: eSIM also simplifies connectivity by allowing service providers to manage multiple M2M connections from a single location and remotely switch connectivity providers.
Consumer Market: Although the consumer market is distinct from the M2M market, there are numerous significant challenges that an eSIM can address for consumers.
Digital Onboarding: It is no longer necessary for the user to visit mobile operator outlets or wait for the SIM card to arrive. Users can quickly and simply connect their devices to mobile networks from wherever they are with a few clicks. Users can download eSIM profiles from mobile operators via the online site or phone. The mobile operator’s self-care app serves as the user’s digital onboarding to the network.
Form Factor/Multiple Sizes: There is no longer any difference in size, as we have seen SIM cards previously come in the size of a banking card, then it changed to second generation form factor, which is called 2FF, later third generation form factor, which is called 3FF or micro-SIM, and now most device manufacturers are using the fourth generation, which is called 4FF or commonly known as the nano SIM card. Here, FF stands for Form Factor. Even for significant devices like iPads or phones, eSIM plays an important role in size because this space can be used for something else, such as a larger battery or an additional IC.
No More Swapping: SIM swap is no longer required because a user can select the mobile network operator’s profile with a few clicks rather than removing the pluggable SIM card from the slot and inserting another SIM card from another mobile network operator.
More devices More ARPU (Average Revenue per User): Because of eSIM, many connected gadgets are now available on the market. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear, tablets like the iPad, and so on. More of these gadgets means more revenue for mobile operators because they can designate a separate plan for wearables and other companion devices.
Reduce Logistic Cost: The elimination of the physical SIM card also assisted the operators in reducing logistical costs and other inventory-related difficulties. Instead, a single backend system may download the profile to any device in real time over the air.
Saving Environment: Since there is no actual SIM product, there is no need for plastic storage, which makes it sustainable and environment-friendly.
With the advent of eSIM, there came a paradigm shift in the telecom sector. It not only decreased user costs but eliminated many hassles for both users and operators, while also making the ecosystem more sustainable. In fact, the technology is further evolving as you read this article. We can’t tell what the future holds but we can only anticipate that the tech would become more seamless, bring more opportunities, and address greater challenges that we couldn’t foresee as yet.
Stay Tuned for the Next Blog – The eSIM Standards & Specifications.