Frequently Asked Questions – GSMA’S Remote SIM Provisioning

Separation of the physical and the digital elements of the SIM is a natural evolution in our industry. Making the right choices now in terms of technology, usability and user experience will ensure a successful transition without compromising the quality of service expected from mobile networks.

Below are answers to the six most frequently asked questions:

Q1 What is an Embedded SIM? – An embedded SIM (eSIM) is a Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) a new generation SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) A big advantage of the UICC over the SIM, is it can have multiple applications on it. One of these applications supports over the air provisioning of the profile which identifies the mobile device to a wireless service provider. The eSIM is physically integrated into the device — i.e. it cannot easily be removed from the device and replaced with another SIM.

Q2 What are the devices? –  There are 2 categories:

  • Machine-to-machine (M2M) devices – often located in unsupervised locations and subject to external influences such as weather (e.g. remote sensors or vending machines) or temperature and vibration (e.g. automobiles). The GSMA Embedded SIM Specification simplifies industrial and logistic processes for the distribution of devices.
  • Consumer companion devices ie wearables (watches, fitness bands etc), tablets, etc. Moving to an embedded SIM solution will eliminate the need for incorporating SIM housing components and help maximise the space available in the device. The GSMA Consumer Remote SIM Specification simplifies the logistic processes for the distribution of devices.

Q3 – Why are these initiatives important to the industry and specifically to operators? – To avoid the proliferation of different developments which may not be interoperable and ensure a fully-functioning, simple, open, secure and interoperable ecosystem. Moreover, to maintain consumer trust and the benefits of the removable SIMs.

Q4 – What is Remote Provisioning? – Remote provisioning is the ability to remotely change the SIM profile on a deployed eSIM without having to physically change the eSIM itself. This technology can be implemented on any eSIM form factor.

Q5 – Why hasn’t the industry developed a single remote SIM provisioning specification for both M2M and consumer devices from the start? – The market requirements for consumer companion and M2M devices differ.  To address the market needs at speed GSMA established two workstreams to address both device types.

GSMA initially developed a remote SIM provisioning specification for M2M and a specification for consumer companion devices. Currently each specification will only target a single device type. Both specifications have many commonalities but also have a few important differences.

A future GSMA workstream will explore harmonisation of remote SIM provisioning.

Q6 – What level of impact will it have on the market? Will it reduce the cost of manufacture? This technology does not aim to replace all SIM cards.  The technology focus is to help manufacturers connect more devices through embedding optimised cellular connectivity.

Device Manufacturers will benefit because remote SIM provisioning will provide them with the ability to produce devices with global reach from a single stock item.  This will significantly improve inventory management.

Customers will benefit from a secure approach, which will help them manage their subscriptions across a number of devices.


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