ESim and the advantage it promise over the physical equivalent

Short for embedded Subscriber Identity Module, is a form of programmable SIM card that is embedded directly into a device. Instead of an integrated circuit located on a removable universal integrated circuit card (UICC), typically made of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC). An eSIM consists of software installed onto an eUICC chip permanently attached to a device.

You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone and use two phone numbers at the same time whiles Samsung and other compatible manufacturers supports same but one SIM at a time.

The eSIM standard was first released in 2016; since that point, eSIM has begun to replace physical SIM along with its tray in domains including cellular telephony and machine services.

As the phone quest of being smart continues more and more components are being rid of. The Subscriber Identity Module slot is no exception, the eSIM takes it virtual completely . That is it becomes a logical registry on your device rather than a physical read only component for mobile devices. Security has been the highest factor for the need to implement eSIM to help manage the internet community as the world grows increasingly dependent on digital.

How different is an eSIM (embedded-SIM)

Once an eSIM carrier profile has been installed on an eUICC (embedded universal integrated circuit card), it operates the same as a physical SIM, complete with a unique ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identification Number) and network authentication key generated by the carrier. Manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei has already produced devices operationalising the eSIM standard with the telecom industry on high adoption.

esim mechanism
esim mechanism

Background

Since 2010, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (originally Groupe Spécial Mobile) GSMA, had been discussing the possibility of a software-based SIM. While Motorola noted that eUICC is geared at industrial devices, Apple “disagreed that there is any statement forbidding the use of an embedded UICC in a consumer product”. Currently the GSMA maintains two different versions of the standard: one for consumer devices and another for Machine 2 Machine devices.

A first version of the standard was published in March 2016, followed by a second version in November 2016. In that year, Samsung made history as the first manufacturer to produce the first eSIM compliant device; the Samsung Gear S2 Classic 3G smartwatch.

Application of eSIM

An eSIM is typically provisioned remotely; end-users can add or remove operators without the need to physically swap a SIM from the device. All eSIMs are programmed with a permanent eSIM ID (EID) at the factory. This number is used by the provisioning service to associate the device with an existing carrier subscription as well as to negotiate a secure channel for programming.

Vodacom became the first MNO in Africa to support eSIMs when it launched an offer based around Samsung Galaxy® LTE watches in 2019. In July 2020 it was joined by MTN Nigeria, which launched a 12-month eSIM trial for devices including the Google Pixel 3 and 4, and the Samsung S20 series. The company highlighted the ability to manage separate personal and business profiles on one device, and the benefits to frequent travelers and tourists who can opt for a local subscription when visiting Nigeria, as reasons for supporting the technology. In Ghana, AirtelTigo on 28th of November 2022 made issuing of eSIM available to existing and new subscribers.

In Americas and Europe, eSIM are in a large usage category as quality of service and ease of switch away from a non performing service provider is first on customer’s priority list. Asia and the Middle East are in high adoption.

Specification

eSIM is a global specification by the GSMA that enables remote SIM provisioning of any mobile device. GSMA defines eSIM as the SIM for the next generation of connected consumer devices. Networking solutions using eSIM technology can be widely applied to various Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios, including connected cars (smart rearview mirrors, on-board diagnostics (OBD), vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots), artificial intelligence translators, MiFi devices, smart earphones, smart metering, GPS tracking units, DTU, bike-sharing, advertising players, video surveillance devices, etc.

Emergency Services advantage

  • European Commission selected the eUICC format for its in-vehicle emergency call service, known as eCall, in 2012. All new car models in the European community are require to have one as of 2018 to instantly connect the car to emergency services in case of an accident.
  • Russia has a similar plan with the GLONASS (national satellite positioning system) called ERA-GLONASS.
  • Singapore is seeking public opinions on introducing eSIM as a new standard, as more compatible devices enter the market.

Developments out of the eSIM

In 2021, Deutsche Telekom introduced an alternative to eSIMs for smaller devices and the Internet of Things in the form of integrated SIMs (iSIMs) fully integrated into a security enclave of the modem SoC (System on Chip). Called nuSIM they are smaller, cheaper and more eco-friendly since no extra hardware and plastic is required. In addition they can meet the same security requirements than a classical or eSIMs; they ease the logistics and production of small devices. It can be expected that because of these advantages iSIMs will also replace the (e)SIMs in mobile phones and other connected consumer devices in future.

More Informationℹ

eSIM Consumer and IoT Specifications
eSIM for M2M
Presentation – GSMA_eSIM_MENA_ Online Forum_June 2020
nuSIM
A complete list of worldwide carriers that support eSIM