A Guide to eSIM and Cellular IoT

Charlie Harrisson -
A guide to eSIM and cellular IoT
Illustration: © IoT For All

The ”embedded SIM” or eSIM combines hardware, a secure element, and software called a universal integrated circuit card (UICC). The SIM card securely downloads, enables, and manages network access profiles provided to it.

At its core, a non-removable chip soldered onto a circuit board serves as the eSIM. It optimizes performance and flexibility, ensuring reliable connectivity for cellular IoT devices. The eSIM adheres to the GSMA standard and serves both consumer and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications.

The eSIM, certified by GSMA, uses an eUICC that is embedded and has a secure element integrated into the circuit board for improved security.

Identity Profile

An eSM chip contains the eSIM profile, which carries the device’s unique identity and the subscription contract. It’s a safe method for downloading user profiles wirelessly without switching the actual SIM card.

Activating New eSIM Profiles

A new carrier profile means registering for a new account through the network operator. This is far simpler with eSIM-enabled devices than traditional SIMs. The network operator places a downloadable profile on the download using the SM-DP+ when needed, and it is responsible for storing and delivering digital eSIM profiles.

Benefits of eSIM for Cellular IoT

There are several advantages of eSIM. For instance, the insertion of chips into IoT devices at the manufacturing stage allows OEMs to design compact and energy-efficient hardware.

However, they also enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to use a single stock-keeping unit (SKU). Consequently, this reduces complexity in both manufacturing and operations.

Another example is that you can remotely update fleets of devices over the air (OTA) throughout the entire lifecycle of the device. Some advantages of eSIM include:

  • Streamline production: Device manufacturing with a single stock-keeping unit (SKU) reduces costs.
  • Flexibility: Organizations can employ inexpensive connected devices designed for specific tasks
  • Security: Authentication of devices ensures data is exchanged securely from chip to cloud as they use a Root of Trust IoT SAFE initiative
  • Global connectivity: Devices can switch networks seamlessly and securely worldwide.

eSIM-Enabled Devices On the Rise

Counterpoint Research shows the industry has a broad ecosystem of partners with more than 275 mobile and virtual network operators supporting eSIM worldwide.

In 2023, the IoT module eSIM/iSIM market will surpass the 500-million-units. 70 percent of all cellular devices shipped in 2030 will sport an eSIM.

The growth of eSIM technology is accelerating due to enterprises embracing IoT and increasingly adopting 5G and eSIM technologies to manage deployments. Moreover, the eIM (eSIM IoT Remote Manager) standardized provisioning tool will enable further growth over the coming years. It will standardize large-scale IoT deployments and management of devices.

Cellular Connectivity Technologies

Cellular network-based IoT connectivity offers comprehensive security and high interoperability, allowing organizations to scale quickly. Enterprises can choose from a selection of connectivity technology such as NB-IoT, LTE-M, 3G, LTE, and 5G that best suits their data requirements.

Enterprises can also choose a combination of technologies for seamless device connectivity to suit their industry-specific applications.

Data Roaming

Simply put, “roaming” means letting an IoT device connect to a different network provider’s coverage area when it’s outside its usual network. Roaming allows the device to connect wirelessly and access data using another mobile network.

Combining localization with advanced eSIM network switching is a cellular IoT solution. This will resolve roaming problems for global IoT enterprise deployments where items are on the move.

eSIM Profile Activation

A new carrier profile means registering for a new account through the network operator, which is easier with eSIM-enabled devices than traditional SIMs. When a downloadable profile is needed, the network operator puts it on the download server. This is known as the Subscription Manager Data Preparation Address or SM-DP+, which is used to store and deliver digital eSIM profiles.

eSIM Advantages for MNO

Mobile network providers stand to gain new opportunities from the growing number of industry-specific IoT projects using IoT connectivity solutions.

Thanks to the GSMA certification, operators can facilitate the secure onboarding of IoT devices into their networks, even without prior knowledge. This allows them to maintain a high level of confidence in the security and integrity of their network.

Remote SIM Provisioning

eSIM provides the hardware soldered to the board inside a device and the solution for connecting and updating network profiles and firmware remotely over the airAuthorized users can access and update profiles and other data on the eSIM via an over-the-air, remote SIM provisioning solution (RSP).

After dispatching the devices, the RSP updates services, collects data, and offers additional services through a cellular connection. Also worth noting is that eSIMs are compatible with all leading carriers, enabling interoperability and remote eSIM profile provisioning on any device.

It benefits large IoT deployments spread over regions where local device management is expensive. To recap some of the key features of RSP:

  • Activate devices over the air to establish a cellular connection to the network.
  • RSP and data generation services provide flexibility for manufacturers and IoT Service Providers.
  • Switching profiles over-the-air by device owners to remotely change network operators.

Reliable and Scalable Solution

In summary, eSIM technology delivers a reliable and scalable solution for IoT device connectivity solutions. eSIM accelerates IoT deployments for utilities, logistics, smart transportation, and more.

Charlie Harrisson - Senior Marketing Manager, Kigen UK Ltd

Kigen is the global security leader for Integrated SIM (iSIM) and eSIM technology solutions and services or connected devices. Connect with #futureofSIM conversation on LinkedIn and via Kigen_Ltd on Twitter.
Kigen is the global security leader for Integrated SIM (iSIM) and eSIM technology solutions and services or connected devices. Connect with #futureofSIM conversation on LinkedIn and via Kigen_Ltd on Twitter.