A guide to the eUICC in large-scale IoT deployments

Unsure what the difference is between eSIM and eUICC? Where can it be used? And are there any benefits? Download our white paper to answer these questions and more about the technology.

eUICC, or eSIM as it is sometimes referred to, has been around for a number of years, but standardization has now reached a point at which the embedded UICC is suitable for large-scale M2M (Machine-to-machine) deployments. However, the technology is still in an early stage of implementation, which means that deployments of eUICC-based solutions come with considerable complexity.

White paper: Understanding the eUICC

This white paper will serve as a guide to making informed decisions about the eUICC. In it you will be able to examine the potential benefits of the eUICC and explore the challenges involved in adopting this technology.

Topics covered in the eUICC white paper:

  • Evolution of the M2M SIM card
  • Benefits and opportunities of M2M eUICC
  • Why deploy the eUICC as a managed service?
  • M2M SIMS operational challenges
  • How to reduce the complexity of eUICC deployment and management
  • IoT eUICC Managed Services from Telenor Connexion

Anyone planning their IoT strategy today faces many technology-related decisions which will impact the long-term success of a product deployment. If, how, and when to adopt eUICC technology is one of these crucial choices.

With a history that goes back twenty years, Telenor Connexion have witnessed and stimulated a number of technological shifts in M2M and the Internet of Things. We hope sharing our insights into today’s technological and market trends will help you succeed with IoT in the long term.

What is eUICC? Some useful definitions

eUICC definition

eUICC definition:

eUICC is an acronym that stands for Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card. It’s a component of a SIM card that enables switching Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) over-the-air. 

UICC definition:

The hardware used in mobile devices that contains SIM and/or USIM applications enabling access to GSM, UMTS/3G and LTE networks.

SIM definition:

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. Refers to the data containing a unique identifier which is stored on a UICC.

SIM card definition:

SIM card is the common name for the plastic card which holds a UICC.

eSIM vs eUICC – what is the difference?

eSIM and eUICC are often used seemingly interchangeably, even though there is a difference between the two: the eSIM is the hardware component of the SIM and a physical form that can be soldered into a solution. The eUICC is the software component that allows the remote SIM provisioning of multiple network profiles.

Watch the video: eUICC in practice – for whom and why

During Telenor’s IoT Think Tank 2021, Mårten Ulvsbäck, Product Manager for Telenor Connexion spoke about eUICC, its strengths and who will find it useful.

Evolution of the M2M SIM

evolution of the SIM

Since the 1990’s, businesses have been connecting machines through mobile networks. This is commonly known as M2M connectivity. Similar to SIM cards used in mobile phones, the form and functionality of M2M SIM cards has evolved along with market demands.

A UICC and eUICC can come in multiple form-factors:

  • 2FF, 3FF, 4FF – Plastic SIM cards of different shape and form
  • MFF2 – SIM card suitable for soldering into a device.

Connecting to mobile networks

A connected “thing” is identified on the mobile network by the subscriber identity stored in its SIM card. The identity defines which connectivity service provider is being used. Based on a commercial agreement with the owner of the machine, the service provider defines which network services are available and delivers those services using a combination of their own and sub-contracted mobile networks.

Why is eUICC important?

This technology has been a game changer for cellular IoT because it simplifies global deployment and mobile machine-to-machine applications. Instead of having to swap SIM cards or installing different cards for different deployments, an eUICC IoT manufacturers the ability to provision the SIM with a new operator profile OTA. 

Installing an eUICC on a device gives it several major advantages. Most of these advantages stem from the eUICC’s ability to store multiple MNO profiles and switch between them remotely and efficiently.

Uses of eUICC

Below are just two eUICC application scenarios, but there are many more:

Insurance use-case

Connected devices normally have a long life and during the life cycle of the device, commercial circumstances may change.

This, in combination with the fact that a fleet of connected devices is often large and geographically dispersed, means the task to replace an operator with another is usually complicated.

Either the connected devices need to be sent to a repair shop for update, or worse, service engineers have to travel to the device to change the SIM. If the SIM is a MFF2 (soldered SIM), that task is even more complicated, costly and time-consuming.

With eUICC, the complete process of switching from one operator to another is handled digitally, rather than physically. The OEM simply buys an insurance to be able to replace the operator should the commercial circumstances require it.

SKU optimization with late binding

OEM normally produce the same goods to be shipped to multiple geographical markets. If there are requirements to use multiple operators, such as when permanent roaming is prohibited, the OEM is normally forced to have multiple SKUs which leads to multiple variants of the same product. This drives up cost for supply, manufacturing and delivery processes.

With eUICC it is possible to have a single SIM SKU with generic connectivity and upon reaching its destination a new local profile can digitally be downloaded and enabled using eUICC.

At Telenor Connexion, we support and have connected solutions tailored for every scenario.

M2M SIMS operational challenges

Historically, SIM cards could hold just one subscriber identity linked to a single service provider. One service provider can still provide access to several networks through roaming, but in order to switch service providers, the SIM card needed to be physically changed to a new SIM card with a different subscriber identity.

m2m sims operational challenges

Physically exchanging SIM cards creates complexity for companies managing large fleets of devices, especially for international deployments, or if the SIM card is not easily accessible. For example, if a company wants to permanently deploy devices in markets where permanent roaming is prohibited by regulation, such as in China and Brazil, that company will need multiple connectivity service providers. This means SIM cards from multiple service providers need to be managed in the supply chain.

Another example of inefficiency can be found when a business wants to switch service providers when the existing contract expires. This might become costly, depending on how easy it is to physically access the SIM card in the already deployed fleet of machines.

Benefits and opportunities of M2M eUICC

To address the inefficiencies of the traditional SIM, the GSMA is developing a global specification for M2M eUICC. This standard enables remote switching of subscriber identity on a SIM card. This means the eUICC can be installed during manufacture and the connectivity supplier can be changed at a later date without the need to physically switch the SIM card.

The release of Version 3.1 of the GSMA M2M eUICC standard in 2016 enabled sufficient interoperability between technology vendors to make the eUICC viable for large scale IoT deployments. Since then, vendors and service providers have been hard at work developing the technology, services, commercial relationships and operational capabilities that will bring the benefits of the M2M Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card to the market.

How to reduce the complexity of eUICC deployment and management

Implementing and operating eUICC-based M2M solutions requires a lot more than just a new type of SIM card. Succeeding with the embedded UICC requires secure infrastructure to manage subscriber identities, commercial and technical integrations across multiple service providers as well as the competence to operate and manage the lifecycle of the overall setup.

To accelerate time to market, a few very large enterprises have chosen to build the necessary internal capabilities to manage eUICC deployment. However, we do not expect this model to be widely deployed as connectivity service providers are now offering eUICC capabilities integrated with managed IoT connectivity services.

For typical use cases, it will be more attractive to source eUICC-based services from a service provider that can achieve scale effects across multiple enterprises. A connectivity service provider can provide the necessary competencies to manage the Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card, which is difficult to replicate unless incorporated in a broader managed connectivity offering.

Three use cases: Why and when to deploy the M2M eUICC

Changing the SIM card of deployed devices can be a costly and complicated process, especially in an IoT environment. One of the main strengths of the embedded UICC is that it makes it possible to manage, download, and remove carrier profiles over-the-air. The benefit of being able to change the MNO without having to change the SIM cards is that it ensures IoT customers can continue running connected services, regardless of their relationships with individual MNOs. These qualities of eUICC are particularly attractive for anyone looking to expand their global footprint as well as those who cannot or are unable to use traditional roaming. Now let’s look at a few typical use cases.

Use case 1: Consolidate your connectivity service providers

Source global eUICC from one managed connectivity provider to achieve global IoT connectivity instead of multiple local/regional providers.

Operational benefits:

  • Lower total cost of ownership compared to sourcing multiple local SIMs.
  • Network access in countries such as China and Brazil where permanent roaming is prohibited.
  • In some cases improved local service characteristics, such as in latency, for example.

Drawbacks related to the costs of eUICC:

Global eUICC based services are typically more expensive than directly sourcing SIMs.

When not to use the eUICC:

When roaming-based, global M2M services are applicable. In general, these services are more cost efficient with more consistent services and better coverage.

Use case 2: Dual-source your connectivity service providers

When a connected device has been manufactured in one location but deployed in many. Source connectivity from two (or more) service providers while using the same SIM cards rather than multiple physical SIM cards.

Operational benefits:

  • Streamlined supply chain compared to having multiple physical cards.
  • The flexibility to use multiple service providers, contributing to optimized cost and quality of service across regions.

Drawbacks:

  • The choice of eUICC service providers is relatively limited.
  • Increased costs to on-board, operate, and manage multiple technical, operational and commercial relationships.
  • More expensive SIM cards and switching costs compared to using traditional Global SIM cards from a single service provider.
  • Sourcing and managing the physical SIM cards will be more expensive, and will dramatically increase demand on your IT operations to services across providers.
  • The OEM need to have advanced technology to orchestrate location of the SIM card unless this is bought as a service from the service provider.

When not to use the eUICC:

When it’s more cost efficient and less complex to use multiple physical SIM cards, e.g. smaller deployments.

Use case 3: Change your service provider

Switch SIM profile ID over-the-air rather than switch service provider.

Operational benefits:

Possibilities exist to switch service providers over-the-air at contract end.

Drawbacks:

  • eUICC are more expensive than traditional SIM cards and limited choice of eUICC service providers.
  • Limited choice of eUICC service providers.
  • There is still a cost attached to switching providers.

When not to use the eUICC:

Deployments where physical exchange of SIM cards is not cost prohibitive e.g., smaller deployments or where SIM cards are easily accessible.

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