eSIM: New edge Mobile Ecosystem and Borderless Mobility

An eSIM: Embedded SIM or Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) is a programmable SIM that can be embedded directly into the device.

With each passing second, the tech world comes up with something that blows our mind. Now, before knowing eSIM, there are few things to know about regular SIM Cards. SIM Card played a vital role in telecommunication industries for over 25 years. A physical SIM Card is an integrated circuit. It has an IMSI number and the network information. SIM cards are getting smaller over the years: Full-size SIM was the first type of SIM, and then it goes like this: Mini-SIM, Micro SIM, and last Nano SIM. Although, the functionality is totally independent of each size.

When we buy a SIM, it has an International Mobile Subscriber Identity i.e. IMSI. The telecom operator will activate our IMSI number and you’ll see the phone is connected to the network.

An eSIM is an SMD component that is directly soldered to a circuit board during the manufacturing process, and it has the same electronics interface as 3FF, 2FF and full-size SIM Cards. Since 2010, the GSMA was thinking about the opportunities of a Software-based SIM. Later on in 2012, the European Commission introduced eCall based on the eUICC format in the emergency vehicle. And then Apple Inc integrated eSIM support in Apple Watch Series 3 and 2nd Generation iPad Pro. Back in the game, Google introduced eSIM in Pixel 2 to support the Project Fi services. Now, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR using Dual SIM with a nano-SIM and an eSIM.

So, What is an eSIM?

eSIM comes as an embedded device. It is not required to buy a plastic SIM with an electronic circuit on the top, from a particular telecom service provider. As eSIM allows consumers to save multiple telecom operator profiles on a device and they can switch from one service provider to another remotely. Consumers can select their own operator of their own choice and does not require any special SIM slot in the mobile handset. There are multiple consumer benefits of this technology:

  • There is no risk of physical damage or SIM being stolen.
  • Easy to switch network operators with the help of an embedded IC.
  • With this amazing and much compact semiconductor technology, your device has extra space for other purposes.
  • Simpler device setup. Also, an activation of eSIM is quite straightforward.

eSIM is having global specifications for each consumer devices. And this universal approach is supporting Gartner’s prediction of Internet of Things (IoT). The device’s connectivity will grow the market of IoT by allowing manufacturers to build a wide range of product for global deployment, which is based on Embedded SIM architecture.

Image Courtesy: Google

eSIM is non-removable ‘Secure Element’, which does not change the role of traditional SIM. It does provide the same kind of protection and end-to-end security authentification same as removable SIM cards. The authentication and assurance for the same operational eSIM product are based on PKI (Public Key Interface).

How eSIM works & How we can switch between networks?

This powerful tiny chip will hold the profiles of all the associated telecommunication companies. You can activate one telecom carrier at a time. ‘Soft’-SIM is a generic name of eSIM. The software for that SIM is updated over the air, all you need to do is provide a key which you’ll find when you connect to your phone network from settings. The eSIM can be activated and switches to another service provider, using a process described below.

  • By scanning a QR Code. Choose your carrier and scan a QR code from your device. If it asks for a confirmation code for eSIM activation, enter a number that is provided by your carrier.
  • By using the carrier’s App. You can select the plan directly or add it manually.
  • You can have more than one SIM in your device but can use one at a time. To switch to another carrier by changing the plans.

Who is supporting the eSIM standards?

The consumer device refers to the human interface device. Mobile networks can be connected to all sort of devices, and most of them do not involve human interface.

M2M connections are rapidly growing. By 2020, there will be more than 10.5 billion devices will be connected to mobile networks.

“The initiative does not aim to replace all SIM cards in the field, but is instead designed to help users connect multiple devices through the same subscription and will help mobile device manufacturers develop a new range of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices that are better suited for wearable technology applications,” said GSMA.

Worldwide the GSMA — Global System for Mobile Association is backing the embedded SIM specifications. The GSMA created two streams for eSIM deployment: Consumer devices and M2M. Both of them targets a specific functionality. The GSMA eSIM specification simplifies the logistics and industrial processes for the distribution.

What will be the future of eSIM?

Certainly, it will take some time to be adopted by a variety of smartphone devices. Whereas, this compact chips can be embedded into wearable very easily. Microsoft Corporation and Qualcomm’s future computers based on ARM processors are expected to have an eSIM for global M2M connectivity. Windows operating system with eSIM, enables users to select data plans. And this plans varies with countries and telecom service providers.

On the other hand, there are certain concerns with eSIM. For an instance, when you’re using an eSIM services and the battery got completely drained out, at that time — you’ll not able to detach the eSIM and put it in some other devices and resume with services. Where in case of traditional SIM card you’re able to do so.

But look at the bright side of eSIM, it got some splendid benefits for manufacturers and users too. For example, when a smartphone manufacturing company is manufacturing a new model, the process gets pretty complex. As it will be designed in one country, manufactured in another country and assembled in any 3rd country. And now you’re using it in your country. See how this sounds — Too complex. But when it comes to eSIM no matter how many countries the smartphone is going to travel, eSIM can be configured to work with any X, Y, Z country using local MNO.

However, practically this change demands for time. Each manufacturer needs to include eSIM standards and re-design the whole architecture. Also, every consumer will not suddenly adopt the change. Henceforth, the predictions say that it will take approximately 27 years before the traditional SIM Cards will be considered as a history once and for all.

The future is now Present:

The eSIM offers redesigned and more secure customer experience. However, in other counterparts, it is being said that, it is easy to heck eSIM as the backbone is cloud computing technology. But since it is rare and far, eSIM already paving its own way through new generation smart-devices.

Also, the introduction of eSIM does not mean there is a fall of carrier-locked devices. By keeping the contractual deal of smartphones it is necessary for the monthly instalments. However, they can immediately switch to another carrier once their contract expires.

As a matter of fact,eSIM not only helping to switch between carriers, it is a turning point for IoT. Moreover, it will generate all new categories of smart hardware devices.

What do you think about eSIM? And what will be the next after eSIM?