In my last blog post from MWC Shanghai, I provided a fly-on-the-wall commentary of 5G, directly from the event.

In this post, we’re diving into the world of eSIM – another key theme at MWC Shanghai this year, with all three of the Chinese Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) leading with their current and future eSIM capabilities.

What is eSIM?

eSIM stands for embedded SIM (or electronic SIM) and both eSIM and SIM are compatible with the GSMA remote provisioning standards.

The remote SIM provisioning are eSIM/eUICC specifications which allow Enterprises to change and activate the SIM profile embedded in IoT devices remotely or over the air (OTA).

Consumer eSIM market – smartwatches

There are currently two remote provisioning specifications – M2M and consumer – both of which simplify the logistics process for device distribution. While the consumer implementation is intended for devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablet computers, and fitness bands, the M2M solution serves all other IoT devices in B2B and B2B2C markets.

In the consumer market, smartwatches and eSIMs are well aligned. The small form-factor smartwatch requires miniaturised components, and eSIM comes in MFF2 (6x5mm) and WLCSP (2x1mm) packages which are solderable. The eSIM is embedded in the watch which means it cannot be removed. Although this brings benefits of security and reliability, it does create the need for remote (OTA) provisioning and management. There is of course a standard process for this, and it is described by the GSMA’s ‘Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) Architecture for Consumer Devices‘.

The GSMA has estimated that smartwatch adoption has exceeded 15% of adults (25% of adults aged 18-34 years) in the USA. In Europe and China, the numbers are around 10% and 15-20% respectively. Adoption by Apple, Huawei, Samsung and Mobvoi means the eSIM opportunity in smartwatches will only grow. Likewise in smartphones, where Apple iPhone and Google Pixel are already deploying with eSIM. Will the Chinese manufacturers follow?

The biggest challenge to eSIM adoption is currently regulation, and significant work is under way to set a favourable regulatory framework. Some business models are still uncertain and there is diversity and fragmentation within the IoT market, but despite all these challenges, eSIM adoption is growing faster than ever before.

One research group is forecasting that the global eSIM market generated $214.7 million in 2018 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 40.70% over the next 10 years. The early adopter rate has been strongest in Europe, followed by North America. However, Asia-Pacific is expected to have the highest growth rate going forward.

M2M IoT market

Smartwatches and smartphones have the advantage of a user interface (the screen) and a user (us!) who can make connectivity choices. IoT devices typically do not have either of these features, and this creates a different set of challenges and a different architecture. Arkessa focus on IoT devices across a whole range of industries spanning Automotive, Energy & Utilities, Logistics, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Smart Cities and Agriculture.

These applications require the network to control and automate decision making around IoT connectivity and the GSMA’s ‘Remote Provisioning Architecture for Embedded UICC (eUICC)’ is a solution which Arkessa has been providing to customers for 12 months already.

As I said before, M2M solutions for industries such as automotive, healthcare, transport, and utilities cannot rely on end user interaction and so Remote SIM Provisioning for M2M follows a server-driven model to remotely provision operator profiles.

It has three key elements:

    • eUICC – a secure element that features one or more subscription profiles. eUICC is compatible with eSIM and removable SIMs. In effect, each profile enables the eUICC to function like a removable SIM.
    • SM-DP (Subscription Manager – Data Preparation) – responsible for preparing, storing and protecting operator profiles and for downloading and installing profiles onto the eUICC.
    • SM-SR (SM-SR (Subscription Manager – Secure Routing) – responsible for managing (enabling, disabling, deleting) profiles on eUICC and securing the communication link between eUICC and SM-DP for the delivery of operator profiles.

The Arkessa managed service support for eUICC technology enables global IoT deployments at scale using a single factory-installed eSIM or SIM (a single SKU).

The automation features of the Arkessa connectivity management platform allows an eSIM or SIM to localise once an IoT device is deployed, anywhere in the world. eSIM-compatible eUICC technology simplifies manufacturing, logistics and deployment, keeps costs down and enables secure and resilient global scalability for IoT.

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