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In this rapidly evolving field of mobile technology, SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards identify users, confirm device legitimacy, and safeguard data.

With advancements in connectivity technology, Embedded SIMs have become the preferred technology for IoT-enabled devices in today's market. This advanced technology, replacing traditional physical SIM cards, offers significant advantages to IoT end-users, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and innovative solution providers. Notably, eSIMs facilitate easier device connectivity and management, a crucial factor driving their widespread adoption in the IoT sector.

In this blog, let’s dive in to learn about

  • The transition from conventional SIMs to eSIMs
  • What an eSIM is
  • Types of eSIM
  • SIM Form Factors
  • How does an eSIM work?
  • Features of eSIM
  • Comparison between eSIM and traditional SIMs
  • Benefits of eSIM technology
  • Industries embarking on eSIM integration
  • Future developments in SIM technology

The Transitioning From Conventional SIMs To eSIMs

A traditional SIM card is a physical entity inserted into mobile phones or other machine devices to initiate network connectivity. It is a detachable module made of silicon and copper, housed in a plastic shell uniquely identified by a globally exclusive serial code known as an ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card ID) number.

In addition, it contains an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), an automatically generated code used to authenticate a device with the mobile network when the device is switched on.

Usually, SIM cards contain a single IMSI code, however, there are specific SIM cards that support multiple IMSI and it is necessary to check with the mobile operator to gain surety of this capability. The usage of multiple carriers on one SIM card might also limit certain services or special tariff benefits offered by mobile network operators.

Deploying conventional SIM cards in the IoT industry has undergone significant drawbacks, making it difficult for the end user to channel the flexibility and ease of operation.

Addressing these challenges, a novel solution was introduced: The Embedded SIMs.

What Is An eSIM?

what is eSIM

The eSIM (Embedded Subscriber Identity Module) revolutionizes device connectivity, offering a digital, soldered alternative to traditional SIM cards. This technology enables seamless cellular network connections through over-the-air (OTA) remote provisioning, supporting multiple carrier profiles and software updates.

Ideal for IoT (Internet of Things) and M2M (Machine-to-Machine) communications, eSIMs facilitate continuous connectivity across various devices, including smart meters, connected cars, smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. They enhance operational efficiency and security by allowing remote network policy management without physical device access.

Juniper Research Report forecasts that eSIMs installed in connected devices will increase from 1.2 billion to 3.4 billion in 2025, representing a growth of 180%.

eSIM technology benefits IoT users, OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), and solution providers by offering secure and robust connectivity solutions with reduced size and lower power consumption. It's poised for significant growth in the IoT sector, driving business-to-business innovation and engagement.

What is the Difference between an eSIM and a Physical SIM card?

Feature eSIM (Embedded SIM) Traditional SIM Card
Size Much smaller, does not require physical space for a SIM slot. Larger, requires a physical slot in the device.
Flexibility Can store multiple carrier profiles; easy to switch carriers remotely. Supports only one carrier profile at a time; requires physical swapping for changes.
Durability More durable due to lack of moving parts and external slots. More prone to damage and wear due to physical handling.
Provisioning Remote provisioning and management of carrier profiles. Manual insertion and removal for provisioning.
Mobility Facilitates automatic profile switching across multiple local networks without changing SIM cards. Requires physical SIM swap when changing networks.
Environmental Resistance Better resistance to harsh conditions due to embedded design. More exposed to environmental factors due to physical slots.
Cost Efficiency Potentially more cost-efficient in the long run due to remote management. May incur additional costs for physical SIM cards and swapping.
Security Enhanced security features due to integrated design and remote management. Physical security depends on the device's SIM slot design.

Types Of eSIMs

The definition of embedded SIM evolved with the advent of the eUICC (Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) in the IoT sphere. The eUICC is a software framework enabling network operators to remotely deploy SIM profiles to their devices.

The eSIM represents the hardware, while the eUICC serves as the software component facilitating over-the-air (OTA) profile updates. The diversity in eSIM types in the realm of digital connectivity facilitates a wide array of use cases, from personal communication to complex industrial processes.

Data-Only eSIM

A Data-Only eSIM provides only data services without traditional voice or SMS capabilities. This type of eSIM is used in devices where the foremost requirement is internet connectivity. It is ideal for devices requiring uninterrupted internet connectivity, particularly in IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

With the projected explosion of over 25 billion connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the demand for data-only SIM cards is set to skyrocket, reaching over 100 million data-only eSIMs worldwide by 2025.

Voice, SMS, And Data eSIM

The Voice, SMS, and Data eSIM offers a complete suite of mobile connectivity solutions, encompassing voice calls, text messaging (SMS), and data services. It is increasingly gaining traction in the consumer electronics sector, particularly as mobile devices equipped with eSIMs have entered the market and are witnessing rising popularity.

Evolution Of SIM Form Factors

evolution of SIM form factors in IoT devices

eSIM technology is standardized by GSMA, ETSI, Global Platform, and SIMalliance. Their collaborative efforts ensure that eSIM technology is robust, secure, and interoperable.

  • Full-Size (FF1)
  • Mini-SIM (FF2) 25mm x 15mm x 0.76mm
  • Micro-SIM (FF3) 15mm x 12mm x 0.76mm
  • Nano-SIM (FF4) 12.3mm × 8.8mm × 0.67mm
  • Embedded SIM or eSIM (MFF2) 5mm x 6mm x 1mm
  • iSIM
  • SoftSIM

The evolution of SIM form factors in IoT devices reflects a journey toward efficient power consumption and adaptability. Initially, IoT devices utilized standard SIM cards, similar to mobile phones. However, as the need for compact and more integrated solutions grew, the industry shifted towards Micro-SIM and then Nano-SIM, each step reducing size and allowing for more compact designs.

Embedded SIM was introduced as the MFF2 format, a major step in miniaturization and integration. This evolution continued with the Wafer Level Chip Scale Package (WLCSP) and further advanced led to the development of the MFF-XS.

The latest in this line of evolution is the integration of SIM functionality directly into the device's processor, known as the integrated SIM or iSIM.

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and Thales have jointly revealed the world’s first GSMA-certified Integrated SIM (iSIM) on the Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform. This innovation is groundbreaking in consumer electronics where smartphones can incorporate SIM functionality directly in their primary processor.

SoftSIM is the futuristic SIM solution to go virtual where SIM functionality can be delivered in code format, eliminating the need for physical components for provisioning SIM profiles.

Evolution Of SIM Technology Over The Past Years

connectivity with advancing eSIM Technology

Factors Influencing eSIM Adoption In IoT Applications

IoT Connected Devices

Popularity Of Connected Devices

The eSIM market value is expected to grow to 16.3 billion US dollars by 2027. With the exponential growth of connected IoT devices, eSIMs provide a sleek and compact design that is well suited for applications like wearables, smart home applications, and for OEMs for designing new solutions.

Demand for Streamlined Connectivity

Demand For Streamlined Connectivity

As consumers and businesses increasingly expect uninterrupted and hassle-free connectivity, eSIMs offer an attractive solution. They allow for easy switching between network providers and plans, catering to the need for flexible and efficient connectivity.

Industry Players

Adoption from Relevant Industry Players

The GSMA Intelligence report revealed that 90% of mobile operators are expected to offer eSIM services by 2025. Major OEMs and telecom operators are increasingly integrating eSIM technology into their offerings. This adoption by key industry players not only validates the technology but also encourages its widespread use, further driving the market growth.

Need for Cost Optimization

Need For Cost Optimization

eSIMs eliminate the need for multiple physical SIM cards, simplify logistics and reduce the total ownership cost of connected devices. It is beneficial for businesses engaged in fleet management and asset tracking systems covering a global landscape.

Need for Diversifying Revenue Channels

Need For Diversifying Revenue Channels

Service providers are embracing eSIM technology as a means to diversify their revenue streams. By offering eSIM services, they can tap into new customer segments, and create additional value-added services.

Need for Diversifying Revenue Channels

Increased Focus On Global Connectivity

The active eSIM connections are expected to grow by 1400%, resulting in more than 4.5 billion connected devices by 2027. The eSIM technology is particularly advantageous to connect to local networks around the world without changing SIM cards. It is crucial for global IoT applications, where seamless cross-border connectivity is essential.

How Does An eSIM Work?

eSIM architecture

eSIMs with multiple operator profiles are upgraded over the air. Profiles are downloaded and managed via a secure internet connection. Upon reaching its destination, the eSIM automatically initiates a process called bootstrapping, where it connects to the most appropriate network operator.
The device gains authorization to access the network. In this arrangement, the service charges are borne by the business or device owner, ensuring a seamless and efficient connectivity experience. Activation and setup of eSIMs are done digitally, and users can switch carriers or plans by downloading a new carrier profile to the eSIM.

Steps Involved In Activating An eSIM

eSIM architecture
  1. Bootstrapping: An eSIM uses a pre-installed bootstrap profile to establish its first network connection.
  2. Profile Download: It downloads a SIM profile, or multiple profiles, through over-the-air (OTA) provisioning process.
  3. Installation of Profile: After the download, the SIM profile is installed onto the device.
  4. Network Recognition: Subsequently, the network recognizes the newly installed SIM profile.
  5. Device Usage: Finally, the device utilizes the eSIM in the same manner as it would a traditional physical SIM card.

Features Of An eSIM

Future Developments In SIM Technology

The future of SIM technology is marked by exciting developments, with innovations like integrated SIM (iSIM) and softSIM. iSIM technology embeds the SIM functionality directly into a device's processor, allowing for more efficient use of space and resources, which is particularly advantageous for IoT devices.

 This integration of GSMA-compliant eSIMs/iSIMs enhances security and simplifies device design, making it a game-changer for manufacturers.
On the other hand, softSIM goes a step further in virtualization, offering SIM capabilities through software alone. This technology eliminates the need for physical SIM cards, enabling users to switch carriers or plans virtually, which is especially beneficial for flexible connectivity solutions.
These advancements are paving the way for new services and applications, such as improved remote provisioning and management of connected devices, and enhanced user experiences with seamless network connectivity.


Unlock The eSIM Capabilities For Heightened Operational Efficiency

The adoption of eSIM technology in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry marks a significant evolution, offering flexibility and global scalability. eSIM technology is ideal for devices deployed in remote or hard-to-reach locations. The inherent robustness and compact size of eSIMs make them suitable for a wide range of IoT-enabled devices from wearables to industrial sensors.

Integrating eSIMs can significantly unlock the business potential of your solutions. eSIM modules are key enablers of uninterrupted connectivity in bulk IoT deployments. eSIM integration for IoT solutions can lead to significant improvements in connectivity management, device maintenance, data security, and overall cost-effectiveness, thereby enhancing the operational agility and competitiveness of businesses in this connected world.

Know more about eSIM-integrated Cavli C series modules for global IoT deployment.

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