By Jim Le
Mobility has long awaited eSIM’s embedded automation capabilities. In this post, learn more about eSIM and the challenges it faces before it is widely adopted, and be prepared for a major coming shift in mobility.
SIM cards are the most common IT component in the world, and have allowed mobile devices to connect to cellular networks for a decade. But they also have their limitations. Most phones only have one SIM card that allows the user to connect to one network. But what if a user wants to:
Traditionally, this would be a challenge, as users would have to swap physical SIM cards in an unlocked mobile device, and could only use one network at a time. However, that is now changing thanks to a new global specification by the GSMA known as eSIM.
A SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module, card identifies and authenticates subscribers on a mobile network. A Dual SIM phone refers to a phone that supports multiple SIM cards. Dual SIM allows users to have multiple phone numbers associated to the same phone. Historically, iPhones have not had Dual SIM capabilities, while Android phones with dual SIM have relied on 2 physical slots for 2 SIM cards. Dual SIMs are popular for travel across national borders, separating between personal and business calls, or where a single network lacks comprehensive coverage.
An eSIM refers to an embedded SIM card. There is no physical SIM card involved, no need for a SIM card slot, and no swapping of cards required. An eSIM is a small chip inside your phone (known as a Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) that works similar to an NFC chip. The UICC stores an eSIM profile, which is a virtual profile that stores all of the information a SIM card would and allows users to connect to mobile networks.
The truly innovative thing about the eSIM is that it is fully re-programmable, allowing for remote provisioning of any smart device. A phone using eSIM can be reprogrammed to change carriers, modify permissions, or to deactivate SIMs remotely, all done over the cellular network. This allows for seamless carrier changeover – no more roaming, no more need for SIM cards, and eventually no need for dual SIM phones. This remote provisioning will also be very important for the growing number of devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
While eSIM has huge potential, it will be a while before the full power of eSIM is realized. Currently, there is not universal device manufacturer or model support. eSIM support from flag ship models include the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR with iOS 12.1. On Android, the Google Pixel 2 and XL or later have an eSIM.
Look for continued support for future iPhones and for more Android OEMs to follow in the footsteps of the Pixel. This is especially important in non-US markets where devices are more likely to be unlocked and mobile devices move more frequently from country to country.
eSIM also isn’t quite optimized for enterprise implementation yet. Here are a few items that would enable greater enterprise adoption:
As mentioned earlier, perhaps the most exciting market impact is to enable IoT devices in difficult areas to be OTA (Over-The-Air) provisioned. As the standard spreads, these capabilities are sure to be introduced.
While eSIM still has some challenges before it is universally adopted, keep your eye on this growing technology, as it is certain to transform the capabilities of enterprise mobility, consumer cellular usage, and the growing number of IoT devices. Now is the time to learn more about this revolution in mobility!
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