The success of standardized plastic SIM cards as a secure identity for cellular devices powered massive investments in cellular infrastructure. However, scale is both the biggest opportunity and biggest challenge for cellular IoT. Being power hungry and expensive, traditional SIM-based M2M modules have not scaled as widely as operators would have liked. A field service call to change SIMs in millions of such devices can be prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately, standards bodies saw the cellular IoT scaling challenge coming. 3GPP created several variants of technology under two popular categories: LTE-M, and NB-IoT. These two radio technology standards are designed to enable many more use-cases through low-power and cost effectiveness. These specifications allow dedicated lower bandwidth cellular IoT channels to co-exist on 2G, 3G, or 4G infrastructure.
Compared with the expense of all-new 5G infrastructure rollouts, cellular IoT rollouts are a no-brainer for MNOs. As of August 2020, the GSMA has identified 142 MNOs across 56 countries investing in one or both of LTE-M and NB-IoT. 29 countries including the US, Brazil, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, and others have deployments of both technologies.
The continued need for scalable IoT solutions led to the development of eSIM technology – an embedded version of the physical SIM card. While consumer eSIM gets headlines with certain smartphones and wearables, the GSMA developed M2M versions of the eSIM specification well before the consumer versions. eSIM, also known as eUICC, has two primary enhancements over conventional SIMs. First, eUICCs can be packaged in a chip soldered to the PCB in the device. Second, operator profiles on the eUICC can be securely and remotely updated over-the-air. Instead of swapping plastic SIM cards, profiles are downloaded and managed on a device as needed.
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Consumer and industrial (M2M) eSIMs differ in the direction of control using remote SIM provisioning, or RSP. Consumer eSIMs use ‘pull,’ where the device can initiate a profile download request. M2M eSIMs use ‘push,’ where an application owner manages profiles on many devices with RSP. Both the eUICC in the device and the RSP software are certified against GSMA specifications before the necessary digital certificates, acting as tokens of trust, are issued. This difference is important as the “push” model for M2M means the device and hence further keeping the cost down which is crucial for IoT devices.
In the eSIM model, a device is ready to deploy anywhere network coverage exists – and changing network providers is just an over-the-air profile change. If a device moves and crosses networks, its profile can be updated quickly and securely. I believe that this is pivotal for cellular IoT adoption, which in turn holds the key to reaching massive IoT scale.
eSIM brings greater flexibility of managing cellular connected devices, making cellular IoT more accessible, affordable, deployable and scalable. This opens many new opportunities for the whole IoT ecosystem.
With the scalability challenges solved by eSIMs, flexibility for new cellular IoT use cases takes over. Consider just some of the innovation possibilities:
Opportunities abound in the change from a mobile-per-person model to an all-things-connected model. At Kigen, we focus on SIM solutions that simplify management of secure device identity through embedded SIMs (eSIMs) and integrated SIMs (iSIMs). With a flexible approach to delivering and managing connectivity with SIM, eSIM, iSIM and remote provisioning, we hope to be pivotal in the growth towards a trillion connected devices within 15 years.
Cellular IoT must take a major role in at-scale deployments, if the IoT community has to address the trillion-device opportunity. To achieve this, cellular IoT devices must scale widely, with automatic, quick and secure switching and authentication onto new networks; all whilst also requiring minimal physical handling and maintenance. Kigen leads the way with two solutions for the eSIM ecosystem.
As the ecosystem adopts trusted eSIM and iSIM solutions, more possibilities will appear. With momentum behind cellular IoT, innovation will accelerate. I’m excited to see everyone take part in building the trillion-device IoT.
Need more info on eSIM and iSIM? Our eSIM & iSIM for Dummies guide provides an easy-to-understand explanation and the overview of benefits, interoperability and security.
Kigen solutions help ensure successful integrations that are GSMA-compliant. They address the cost, implementation, and deployment barriers to connecting IoT devices, and help power IoT innovation. This is the right partnership to help you find your place and succeed in the developing IoT ecosystem. Learn more here.
This blog post was originally published on Arm Blueprint.