eSIM ecosystem convenes in Shanghai to capitalize on market demand
The industry goal of maximising the number of network connections and connected devices means, among other things, prioritising the technology that will make the most impact. One such element that has been a key and consistent enabler of digital services over recent years is the eSIM. eSIM will play a crucial role achieving ubiquitous connectivity – a circumstance the market has been waiting on for over a decade. Its many advantages over the conventional plastic SIM are making it a staple feature in enterprise IoT applications, and as a result demand is soaring. Confidence on the consumer device side is also promising; research from GSMAi estimates that there will be 1 billion eSIM smartphone connections by 2025 and by 2028, over 50% of smartphone connections will use eSIM.
The challenge the market now faces is ensuring this technology can be produced at scale, operates securely and meets the needs of a dynamic IoT ecosystem characterised by a diversity of devices with various connectivity needs. Fundamentally it also means ensuring the technology is deployed – and in operation – across the globe. This includes China, which is one of the few countries yet to include eSIM in smartphones. To help meet this challenge, the industry convened at The Power of eSIM technology summit at MWC Shanghai 2023. Bringing together some of the most influential players from across China and wider Asian market, the event sought to unite the wider industry behind common approaches to capitalize on market potential.
Speakers pointed to a number of existing industry-wide initiatives which had already helped in accelerating growth. Perhaps the most important being the creation of the three bespoke specifications for consumer, IoT and M2M markets. These have been essential in drawing support from key OEMs such as Apple, Samsung, Google, Xiaomi, Nokia and Sony, to name but a few. Outside of hardware, the remote provisioning of subscriptions inherent to eSIM has spurred the growth of other areas of the ecosystem, such as connectivity-as-a-service (CaaS). Speaking at the event, Red Tea Mobile founder and CEO Hui Jin underscored how eSIM had made it far easier for OEMs across the globe to produce connected devices, whatever the geography may be. He went on to explain how his company had achieved success providing connectivity services in a number of applications such as mobile payment, MNO user engagement and the provision of CaaS to connected vehicles. For example, their eSIM solution, T-Box, automatically downloads available MNO data remotely when devices reach their destination, making it easy for vehicle owners to select their operator, regardless of location.
The eSIM solution provider, Valid, reported similar successes in resolving interoperability challenges the industry faces. Here, Product Marketing Manager Christian Fernández Carrillo drew attention to their solution, Valid Mobile, works with both traditional SIM and eSIM. Tongxin Micro’s Executive Vice President, John Zou, explained on how his company produce eUICCs produced which work hand- in- hand with Valids’ remote SIM provisioning platform. Together, they are enabling eSIM POS terminals and transforming everyday commerce. eSIM POS terminals simplify payment for retailers by allowing them to set-up and pick from a range of connectivity options without having to physically switch SIM. Their mobile connectivity also means that such POS terminals can be used in almost any location and are not confined to the boundaries of fixed line connectivity. For OEMs, the eSIM is good news as well, for it greatly simplifies the production process, helping them on their mission to achieve wider economies of scale.
In addition to the creation of the three eSIM architectures, the GSMA has undertaken several initiatives to increase collaboration and help the market reach its potential. For example, the GSMA eSIM Discovery Service is the industry-specified and universally-recognised method for remote eSIM provisioning. This standardised way of activating eSIM subscriptions makes life easier for consumers and more cost-effective for operators and the wider mobile ecosystem. The GSMA also provides the eUICC Identity Scheme (eIS), and the eUICC Security Assurance (eSA), which provides both industry essential identity service and lay the foundation to protect consumers and ensure industry confidence in eUICCs. These are, of course, all signs of a mature market that the industry has confidence in – the next challenge is communicating this to enterprise and consumers alike.