Key Takeaways from MWC 2023: eSIM and iSIM Leap Ahead

Bee Hayes-Thakore -
Key Takeaways from MWC 2023: eSIM and iSIM Leap Ahead
Illustration: © IoT For All

Looking back at MWC 2023, a focus on real use cases and solutions, with eSIM and iSIM becoming mainstream around IoT connectivity, stood out. With well over 200 meetings, it has been an action-packed edition of MWC Barcelona. What was apparent was a move from focusing on individual technologies of 5G to real use cases and how to address scale. It feels eSIM and iSIM are mainstream in the conversation around IoT connectivity.

The show always delivers a fascinating snapshot of the state of mobile technology and telco innovation, and this year was no exception. It attracted around 88,000 attendees to the latest GSMA estimates. However, the key theme was less about hype technology trends like 6G and Metaverse, and more about how IoT supports industries’ digital transformation. There was a marked shift in the conversation from should we, to show me how around security, 5G monetization, and sustainability. At the heart of these show me how conversations, we start to unpack the key technologies that support innovations. Let’s take a look at those that stood out.

“What was apparent was a move from focusing on individual technologies of 5G to real use cases and how to address scale.”


7 Key Takeaways from MWC 2023

#1: Telcos & eSIM

As we started 2023, we highlighted why eSIM technology is becoming essential to device makers or OEMs. The run-up to this year’s MWC 2023 saw the release of Counterpoint Research’s eSIM Enablement Landscape, noting that more than 260 mobile operators and the majority of the virtual network operator market now support eSIM and the average device support by carriers is more than 30.

Kigen was positioned as a specialist in eSIM enablement and noted as one of the fastest-moving players. It was stated that Kigen was, “Making strides in the consumer domain as well as augmenting the cause of iSIM.” The launch of the eSIM-only iPhone 14 has triggered interest from European and APAC CSPs at an all-high time, opening the eSIM market to newer telco/MVNO players. It also has had a positive influence on OEMs as many look to growing opportunities in the consumer services market through the adoption of eSIM.

#2: Boost from eSIM SGP.31/32 GSMA

While the need for global seamless connectivity has been a significant driver for OEMs and device makers turning to cellular, coverage gaps are present across large geographies. Prime amongst the ‘How to’ conversations were the key developments in driving global connectivity. That is, ‘what can meet the varied requirements around energy efficiency, ease of certification with MNOs and scaling, and affordability?’ One size would not fit all use cases, and MWC’23 delivered well in innovative approaches to address the growing needs of telcos and OEMs.

GSMA’s upcoming IoT eSIM technical specification SGP.31/32 is currently a major topic among IoT-focused MVNOs for the enablement of connected devices. This upcoming milestone will include changes that bring in streamlined integrations and allow aggregation to multiple mobile networks, resulting in a specification that is highly beneficial for IoT.

A remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) service comes in two types. The first is a consumer solution that enables the smartphone device the ability to request or pull the required profiles, on the user’s demand. The second flavor is an M2M solution, where the fleet owner can push a SIM profile and needed data to an unattended device in the field. This is suitable for many cellular IoT deployments.

Further on the consumer side, TCA has launched an eSIM interoperability service to promote increased confidence and trust across the eSIM ecosystem, delivered by test solution provider Comprion. This will allow mobile and network operators to test their eSIM profiles with various eSIM devices.

#3: Global, Ready-to-Connect eSIMS

As this ecosystem grows, there is a strong appetite for bundled solutions – bringing modules with connectivity to speed up development time and standards compliance. Sierra Wireless demonstrated the new smart connectivity premium with eSIM bringing multi-ISMI, multi-profile with built-in failover in 190 countries. This enhanced combination, enabled by Kigen eSIM products and services, would allow a reduction of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Time to Market.

#4: Satellite Connectivity

Satellite connectivity was perhaps the strongest trend at MWC 2023. The chipset makers and MVNOs looked at satellite connectivity 3GPP Release 17 and several new satellite constellations will support cellular technologies based on NB-IoT and LTE-M. Only 30 percent of the world’s surface has coverage from terrestrial networks. The combination of cellular and Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTN), or satellite connectivity, is particularly attractive for devices used in challenging environments, where relying on terrestrial cellular networks alone can be problematic.

Kigen and Skylo announced our collaboration in making satellite connectivity integration frictionless for device makers, allowing for seamless transitions between cellular and satellite connectivity via Skylo’s SIM profile via Kigen eSIM OS. Bullitt Group, the leading rugged tech brand, launched the new Motorola Defy and CAT S75 phones that are built on this collaboration. We are just at the start of the convergence of cellular and satellite and exciting possibilities lie ahead.

#5: Digital Revenue Opportunities

Seizing the opportunity in over 750 million hobbyists worldwide and over 500 million business-critical rural and remote workers, the leading rugged tech brand, Bullitt, announced a series of products enabled with this unique combination from Skylo and Kigen on MediaTek’s Dimensity eSIM Chipset: the Bullitt Satellite Messenger available on the Motorola Defy Satellite Link.

This is a great example of how a leading OEM is extending their unique understanding of their subscriber base into new digital revenues that augment the experience of the hardware. The service execution is incredibly thoughtful both in how it works natively on the Cat S75 smartphone and its compatibility with any iOS or Android device. Bullitt was awarded the “Best of Show” GLOMO award.

For OEMs looking to explore new models of digital revenues that are suited to their business models, the news of Quectel’s launch of flat-rate roaming IoT connectivity would be welcome.

#6: iSIM Technology

At the onset of MWC 2023, IoT Now covered what all factors could indicate if 2023 is the year of making it easy for OEMs to scale IoT.

“It took 22 years for SIM and 12 years for eSIM chips to become mass market. OEM-mandated technology in volume, but within five years, iSIM products are coming to market. It’s particularly pleasing for us because Kigen was formed to make this a reality, and today, our ecosystem is thriving,” said Vincent Korstanje, Kigen’s CEO.

There were some notable firsts, particularly as Berg Insights noted in their MWC’23 highlights, “Sequans, Eseye, and Kigen have launched an iSIM solution based on the M2M specification, a major step towards widespread adoption of iSIM in the IoT space.” We welcome the availability of the world’s first multi-carrier integrated SIM for IoT. Further, the conversation around iSIM is also moving ahead from iSE, iTRE, iUICC, or ieUICC as we find a more common language around iSIM. This will certainly help to move towards the estimate by Kaleido Intelligence of 300 million iSIM devices in the forecast period till 2027.

#7: Bridging the Connectivity Gap

The GSMA dedicated a corridor ahead of Hall 2 this year to highlight the “Usage Gap,” which ensures the benefits of mobile coverage and technology translate to driving digital inclusion.

95 percent of the global population lives in areas where connectivity is available to some extent. However, bridging the coverage gap to the remaining 5 percent. Many barriers prevent access to digital services, such as:

  • Lack of digital skills/literacy.
  • Affordable devices.
  • Access to relevant content and services.
  • Security and safety concerns.

It is commendable that there was discussion around how to collaborate, and we hope this would benefit organizations such as which is involved in upskilling and education of digital skills to underserved communities and supply of SIMs and hardware.

Bee Hayes-Thakore

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.