With the new embedded SIM (eSIM), companies can switch between mobile operators and take control of the applications programmed in the SIM. The IoT market sees this as a revolutionary step forward, but what does the rest of the market think?
As a consumer, you normally have little interaction with your SIM card: when you change operators, you put a new SIM into your mobile phone, every couple of years or so.
For companies and governments, it is quite different. Especially when they have thousands or tens of thousands of SIM cards. In addition [to phones], the card is used in many more types of devices than just a mobile phone. For applications within Internet of Things (IoT), the card is used in utility meters, in access gates, in connected cars. The demand for the eSIM deployment in the Netherlands is driven by the IoT market, says Jan Mooijman: “An IoT device uses its SIM for a much longer period of time than a mobile phone – [sometimes 10 years or more]. And for these IoT devices you want to change the operator without having to replace the SIM card. Additionally, companies can add functionalities to the eSIM that are operator-independent – including your own enterprise security applications.” Mooijman is ASPIDER-NGI CEO, a leading Mobile Virtual Network Enabler and IoT provider for connectivity management solutions. Among other things, the company collaborates with BTG, the industry association for ICT and telecom large consumers, implementing the standards defined by GSMA (the global trade association for mobile operators).
Operators are waiting – “Watching the cat from the tree”
The first trials with the eSIM took place last year, says Petra Claessen, Managing Director & New Business at BTG: “The first Proof of Concepts were started last year and completed showing that we can switch from one operator [to another], remotely, over-the-air. “According to Claessen, the country’s four largest operators are “watching the cat from the tree” [(waiting)]. Industry reaction on the impact of eSIM has been varied: from “no time to wait” to “there is no clear eSIM strategy yet” or even the complete absence of a response. Understandable when we hear Claessen: “The Netherlands has a unique situation. We are a small country and we have four operators. While in larger countries around us there are sometimes only one or two operators. Then it’s easier to enter the dialogue. “However, in the Netherlands there is already a mobile operator who is willing to cooperate with the introduction of eSIM: Voiceworks, who work with ASPIDER-NGI to deliver solutions and knowledge on eSIM. “The eSIM enables MVNEs, such as Voiceworks and ASPIDER-NGI, to deal flexibly with the provision of services,” explains Voiceworks, lead mobile engineer Arjan van der Oest. “In the coming years, more and more devices will adopt the eSIM. Our leadership in these initiatives mean that we are already better prepared for future developments in the handset and device market. “
ESIM as a new standard
The second series of pilots has now started. Claessen (BTG) says they are focused on authorization and authentication: “In addition to ASPIDER-NGI and Voiceworks, SURFnet is also engaged.” SURFnet is organization that operates through a hybrid fixed-wireless network for colleges, universities, academic hospitals and other scientific institutions to connect with each other. Claessen (BTG): “In a later stage of this trial, several big companies will join and we hope to complete the trial before the end of summer. “And then… how to proceed? Mooijman (ASPIDER-NGI): “My belief is that the eSIM will become the defacto standard. It is no longer technology demand driven, but [more of] a competitive question. And the good news is, thanks to new European legislation, participants from outside the Netherlands can market into our domestic market. Ultimately, it is the customers who determine the market direction. If a number of large corporates tender for eSIM, then it is likely that these solutions will become common within one or two years. We are already working on rolling out the eSIM for a number of international customers”. “Voiceworks is a little more cautious in predicting. Van der Oest: “It’s hard to tell when the eSIM will be widely available. One of the biggest challenges is both support from all service providers and full technical support in the devices to remotely manage the eSIM. “
What does the business reseller think?
Once the eSIM is in place, this will also affect us: the business ICT reseller. How does this development look from our perspective? Remco Doeve, Business Development Manager at Creaforti, finds it is a logical conclusion: “Data is becoming increasingly commonplace. It’s been a long time selling subscriptions [but] it is the total package that you offer to your end customer [that really matters]. With the eSIM, I expect the first steps to be taken without question. In addition, swapping a SIM card is becoming less relevant and is only a small part of the total service package that customers take from us. But I can see bigger benefits in the IoT market. “Roelof Zweytzer, Managing Director of Amnez Telecom, who is also in the IoT market agrees: For our IoT customers, the eSIM is very important and there is already an existing demand. For example, the SIM cards of one of our IoT customers are located a few meters below ground. You can imagine that this will be a huge expense if you need to replace a few thousand. “
Instant access to 150 operators
Ronald Horn, BTC’s director, said the arrival of the eSIM creates an important role for the business ICT reseller: “We need to ensure that our customers are connected to the right networks. These are not necessarily the cheapest but those that best respond to the needs of our customers. The remote over-the-air switching has the advantage that the customer always has a good coverage. We already deliver machine-to-machine SIM cards that provide operator-independence in the Netherlands and get the strongest signal. “Opening doors to foreign operators offers opportunities to customers, he thinks. But it also makes it more complex. Horn: “You will get one hundred fifty operators that you can connect to. This means increased choice for the customer. And for us the complexity to make sure everything works well.” Like the other parties, Horn agrees that the speed of development of the eSIM will be determined by the market. “Especially since the customer now becomes the owner of the SIM and the applications on the eSIM, instead of the operator. This gives the business reseller the freedom to integrate the eSIM into the customer’s infrastructure. This allows us to develop our own services for the customer and we can ensure collaboration. “
The differences in eSIM variants
There are actually two main types of eSIMs: an eSIM that is physically attached [soldered – pic to the left] to the device itself and a removable eSIM [that is just like your existing SIM – pic above]. With the attached variant soldered in the device, the smaller space occupied by the eSIM is a big advantage (no SIM slot required). The variant that can be removed is especially interesting for large corporate customers [with existing SIM slots]: they can switch operators to provision their devices with an electronic request once they have switched to the eSIM. Both types of eSIM provide the same remote provisioning [of operator profiles and applications].
Editor: Daniëlle Vogels, TBM
Translated from: https://issuu.com/magentapublishing/docs/2017_tbm_4