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A guide to the eUICC (eSIM) 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 eUICC is suitable for large-scale M2M 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 (eSIM)

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 white paper:

  • Evolution of the M2M SIM
  • 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

Content preview

Introduction

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 THE M2M eUICC? SOME USEFUL DEFINITIONS

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.

UICC:

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

SIM:

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

SIM CARD:

The common name for the plastic card which holds a UICC.

eUICC:

Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card.

eSIM:

Embedded Subscriber Identity Module — Embedded SIM is — a UICC that supports “over-the-air” provisioning of an initial operator subscription and the subsequent change of subscription from one operator to another in accordance with the GSMA Embedded SIM specification. Use of the GSMA Embedded SIM specification simplifies industrial and logistic processes for the distribution of M2M equipment.

GSMA:

A trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide. The GSMA includes around 800 mobile operators as full members and an additional 300 companies as associate members.

M2M AND IOT:

The terms machine to machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) refer to connecting machines/things to the internet or closed networks to enable new services or process efficiency. While IoT is often used as a broader term than M2M, in this paper we will use the two terms interchangeably.

WHAT IS EMBEDDED? – UNDERSTANDING THE eUICC

The eSIM originally referred to a SIM card with a form factor suitable for soldering it into a device. In this paper the term eUICC will refer to a SIM card supporting “over the air” provisioning independently of the form factor.

EVOLUTION OF THE M2M 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.

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.

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 eUICC 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 eUICC 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 eUICC, which is difficult to replicate unless incorporated in a broader managed connectivity offering.