What is eSIM?
An innovation developed by telecoms trade body, GSMA, an eSIM enables users to have multiple identities on a device simultaneously, and to switch between them as required. Early smartphone deployments have supported dual SIM devices, allowing users to have one profile on a physical SIM, and then make use of the eSIM to hold a second. With Apple’s latest iPhones, eSIM technology has made it possible for users to take advantage of the opportunity to have multiple profiles on one device. So, a user could have a personal and business profile on one phone, for example, and change between them seamlessly.
Other major consumer electronics companies including Samsung, Google and Microsoft are also supporting this innovation. As eSIM no longer requires an external SIM tray, it benefits device manufacturers by saving space on devices, as well as making them more watertight. And as it makes little sense to use physical and digital methods together, eSIM is likely to ultimately become the singular form of SIM technology in connected devices.
How can eSIM enable CSPs to deliver a better experience for consumers?
Communication service providers (CSPs) should see eSIM as an opportunity to keep their customers happy and onboard millions of new devices onto their networks, by selling additional profiles for use with connected devices such as watches, cars, cameras and smart speakers. Indeed, in saturated markets especially, this latter application represents a real growth opportunity.
eSIM also represents an opportunity to develop new device plans, such as bundled offers – connecting multiple devices with one contract. By allowing customers to add new devices to their plans without having to receive a physical SIM card in-store or in the mail, eSIM will make device bundling significantly easier.
By upscaling their customers’ bundled plans in this way, CSPs can enjoy whole new revenue opportunities. Despite the lure of lower-cost mobile plans, consumers are still attracted to networks that offer high performance and flexibility. But if operators can combine high speeds and reliability with a range of highly personalised value-added services, they will find themselves in a strong position to gain and retain customers, lured to their networks by the flexibility that eSIM offer them. So by moving to true digital models, service providers can also greatly enhance customer satisfaction.
How can eSIM enable CSPs to deliver a better experience for businesses?
eSIM enables a host of new capabilities for businesses that will help communications providers service the enterprise. For example, mobile device management (MDM) can be a challenge for large enterprises, with thousands of SIM cards in mobiles and laptops requiring activation. eSIMs, however, can be much more easily activated, or switched between devices. There are other machine-to-machine examples as well, like an industrial company being able to digitally swap or reset a SIM in water meters, without having to physically switch out a card.
It will also greatly benefit business with machine-to-machine technology deployments, enabling them to change SIM cards, or reset them remotely. This will benefit public utilities companies, such as water or electricity providers, which often have SIM cards in their customers’ smart meters. Being able to manage these devices remotely can save significant time and cost.
Enterprises with IoT deployments connected by low-power wide area networks (LP-WAN), such as narrowband-IoT and, eventually, 5G, will also benefit from introducing technologies that utilise eSIM. CSPs supporting eSIM will have an opportunity to sell new plans to these businesses, based on new LP-WAN connectivity models, opening up new lines of revenue.
Do CSPs have anything to fear from eSIM?
As eSIM grows in popularity, CSPs must move quickly to ensure they can support the technology and remain at the top of the communications value chain. They need to invest in evolving their billing support systems, to ensure they’re able to integrate with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and vendors that are developing new network technology for eSIM.
With traditional SIM technology, the hardware and customer profile were supplied by the operator. With eSIM, however, the hardware in the device can be provided by OEMs, which will give the OEM far greater influence over how profiles are provisioned, and the overall user experience. While the GSMA’s standards outline how to download a SIM profile to each device, there are other areas yet to be outlined. What we’ve seen as a result is that manufacturers are defining their own methods.
By working closely with OEMs, CSPs can ensure they are defining the customer experience during the customer on-boarding process, and retain their positions within the ecosystem. This is the beginning of a journey that CSPs need to take in order for the eSIM to be compatible will all OEMs and device types. However, there is still a lot of work to do.
How can more CSPs support the eSIM initiative?
Many communications providers around the world have been supporting eSIM initiatives, but typically only for “quick and dirty” implementations on a single device. However, it is estimated that by 2030 all new smartphone devices will support eSIM. With such potential demand for embedded SIMs, communications providers will need to choose between developing these single device implementations, or a more long-term, productised, robust and flexible solution that can cover many different options.
In the meantime, to encourage eSIM adoption across the mobile sector, communications providers can create a new digital experience for onboarding customers using eSIM, via an online portal or an operator’s self-service applications. The short-term goal is to make this a new, easy-to-manage digital experience for consumers to ensure easy addition and switching between devices.
Gary Miles, CMO, Amdocs
Image source: Shutterstock/Chinnapong