The number of Internet of Things (IoT) connections is expected to reach. 25 billion by 2025. Growing IoT device connectivity is driving the demand for cellular connectivity in businesses and industries that use IoT devices. Embedded Sim technology is the catalyst for the digital management and connectivity lifecycle of IoT devices. Although there is significant traction in adopting IoT eSIMs, there are still some hurdles facing the technology. In this post, we will look at the challenges facing adoption of IoT technologies and the key components that make up IoT eSIMs.
What is IoT eSIM?
IoT eSIM is an embedded general-purpose integrated circuit card according to GSMA, a global association that sets up communication frameworks. Therefore, IoT eSIMs are approved by the world’s largest operators. Unlike traditional plastic SIM cards that can be removed from IoT devices, IoT eSIMs are soldered directly. The development of the IoT eSIM or eUICC has made it suitable for extreme environments (humidity, vibration, waterproof and high temperature) and throughout the lifecycle of IoT devices. One of the main goals of eSIM is to create an architectural reference that can promote solution longevity and interoperability.
An eSIM profile holds a unique ID for a device. It is also consistent with the customer’s subscription agreement with the designated network operator. It also grants access to the operator network by activating the corresponding profile in the eUICC SIM. One advantage of the eSIM profile is that it uses a remote eSIM provisioning process to replace it with a new profile provisioned on the eUICC SIM. eSIM profiles fall into two categories: Bootstrap or Initial Activation and Operational Profiles.
The bootstrap profile serves two functions when used as the default eSIM profile and pre-configured. You can initially provide an operational profile to the eSIM by facilitating access to the network. It can also act as an alternative option to enable international roaming capabilities for operator networks. Customers typically enable bootstrap profiles on initial access to download custom operational profiles that can be accessed locally and avoid potential restrictions and expensive charges for roaming. When using an eSIM, you can download through one operating profile. However, you can only have one active profile at a time.
Essential parts that make up eSIM technology
Various technologies are involved when talking about embedded SIM. So, choosing the right solution requires a clear understanding of what the technology is and how it works. Here are some important parts of what constitutes an eSIM:
Subscription Manager Data Preparation (SM-DP)
As part of Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP), SM-DP securely prepares the eSIM profile and stores it while waiting to be provisioned to the eUICC. Preparation also includes encrypting the profile using a digitally signed certificate. There is a separate SM-SR entity that does the profile transfer over the air.
Abbreviation for Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card. eUICC has dedicated system and write/read capabilities that enable remote provisioning over the air using the RSP process. So there is no need to physically change the SIM card of your device. As eUICC is a generic term, it applies equally to removable RSP support and fixed SIM form factors. eSIMs appear in all form factors.
Subscription Manager Secure Routing (SM-SR)
SM-SR performs the secure over-the-air transfer of the profile to the eUICC as part of the remote SIM provisioning process. It serves as a complement to the separate SM-DP responsible for preparing the eSIM profile and storage.
Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP)
The service used to pass the eSIM profile to the eUICC SIM. Provides users with the ability to remotely and securely download, enable, attach, and deactivate eSIM profiles. The term platform management is used to describe the various functions required to support the remote SIM provisioning process.
The challenges of adopting IoT eSIM technology
Rejection of mobile carriers
Carriers will need to rethink their business models to survive the global IoT adoption. These carriers need IoT enablers and OEMs that can sell cellular data plans by adding functionality to the B2B model to the B2C model they already have. As eSIMs no longer connect end users with specific carriers, you risk losing clients with the flexibility of simple button clicks and subscription changes. It could mean an end to exploitative and expensive roaming charges for users. This is why the adoption of eSIMs has been so slow despite the existence of many years.
Geographical rules change
Although the GSMA is the body responsible for standardizing solutions for remote SIM provisioning, regulations for hosting subscription management platforms and data centers differ between countries. Some countries, such as China, require data centers to be within jurisdictions. These regulations prohibit data transfers and reduce adoption of eSIMs.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Regardless of who invests in an eSIM architecture, ROI is still a scary consideration at times. The above claims are true, with roaming rates continuing to squeeze carriers’ margins and falling mobile data prices. Cost considering limited applications IoT eSIM solution placement is high. The fact of “keep it as is” further complicates the potential for investment in IoT as there are no significant disruptors in the market.
The biggest threat to any IT deployment today is in terms of security. Data exchanged between servers and IoT devices must be handled securely. IoT is mature to address security, but as new technologies are added, new gaps and loopholes are created in security. For example, obsolete IoT devices, once associated with a person’s identity, tend to be illegally reused and reverse engineered. Hackers can gain access by not properly disassociating user and device credentials by legitimate owners.
The eSIM can be reprogrammed remotely so you can share your credentials wirelessly. Therefore, eSIMs are open to side-channel attacks. By tapping on the communication between the platform and the eSIM, attackers can access real carrier profiles for various fraudulent activities.
Connectivity of IoT devices is now more necessary than ever. As the number of IoT devices increases, eSIM is an ideal connectivity solution. However, in addition to the many benefits that eSIMs can provide, eSIMs are still not widely used and adoption is slow due to the factors listed above.