eSIM Growth: All you need to know about new eSIM IoT GSMA Specifications

With the publication of new eSIM IoT RSP specification (SGP.32) GSMA standards, we spotlight what OEMs must know to benefit from eSIM growth!

The role of eSIM standards in 5G IoT

The introduction of the eSIM is a big change. In fact, for device personalization and customer account identification, it’s the most significant one for decades – with benefits for device makers and connectivity network operators alike. Now, the momentum of eSIM adoption with 5G IoT is accelerating: 

  • At least 175 mobile service providers already offer commercial eSIM services for smartphones spanning more than 69 countries. (GSMA Intelligence, 2021)
  • Juniper Research forecasts the value of the global e-SIM market will increase from $4.7 billion in 2023 to $16.3 billion by 2027. Further, IoT connections will outpace smartphone eSIM growth by 2026. (March, 2023)
  • Although device shipments and projections are sound indicators, eSIM profile downloads show real activity – encouraging estimates from Trusted Connectivity Alliance show that IoT/M2M eSIM downloads increased by 148% in 2022. (April, 2023)
  • Counterpoint Technology and Research projects that more than 6 billion xSIM (eSIM + iSIM) devices will be shipped over the next 5 years in its eSIM Devices Market Outlook. 70% of all cellular devices shipped in 2030 will sport an eSIM. Further, iSIM (iUICC) will grow fastest as it becomes the preferred SIM form factor by 2030 for all cellular categories. (June, 2023)
Kigen highlights eSIM hyper growth - why eUICC growth is helped by new eSIM IoT RSP specifications

In summary, indeed, eSIM technology is set for hyper-growth and crossing a critical inflection point, as many respected analysts in the industry observe. Another vital factor bringing eSIM to the fore is that the latest Release 17 of the 3GPP standards that define the 5G technologies have also incorporated full support for NB-IoT and CAT-1 Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) as “New Radio” or NR.

Helpful tip!
Confused by acronyms? Make sure you consult our glossary or ask us directly on LinkedIn.

So, to support OEMs who wish to take advantage of the growth potential of eSIM, there needs to be a standardized approach to eSIM management and services. This is the remit at hand of the collaboration of the eSIM Working Group at GSMA. This group looks after the eUICC definition in consumer and IoT, eSIM discovery service, eUICC identity scheme, and eUICC security accreditation. Kigen has been deeply invested in helping build the specifications at GSMA, with many of our technical experts contributing to multiple working groups.

Advancing the growth of eSIM with standards

May 2023 marked a key milestone with GSMA releasing the new eSIM for IoT Specification (SGP.32 v1.0).
Kigen’s Saïd Gharout, leads the GSMA eSIM Working Group 7, which defines the SGP.31 and SGP.32 GSMA eUICC Specifications for IoT Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP). We sit down with Saïd to learn about all you need to know about eSIM RSP for IoT and what’s coming ahead that you should prepare for. 

1. How did the eSIM come to exist?

Innovations leading to cellularly connected machines with the rise of IoT saw a need for SIMs to further reduce in size, increase spoilage resistance, and offer greater electrical and memory endurance.

ETSI (via TS 102 671, first published in 2010) took notice of this and, to ease their adoption and ensure quality assurance, standardized a new class of SIM with more robust physical and logical characteristics. This included a move from discrete, physical SIM cards to “soldered down” M2M form factors, which delivered on the resiliency requirements but posed an issue around choosing or switching networks.  

To address this, the GSMA (the Carriers’ industry trade association), agreed to establish a solution through an industry-backed set of specifications via a specialized SIM group. GSMA released the first version of this, defining eSIM that is suitable for Remote SIM Provisioning to target the M2M market, in 2013. Since then, the world of IoT has evolved beyond the point-to-point connectivity that the terminology of M2M applied to; and moving more towards hyper-connected cloud and data. For this, the eSIM group has been exploring how to simplify RSP for the variety of use cases IoT now serves.

2. What specifications are most relevant today?

Specification relevance will depend on the role and or activity you perform. 

For anyone looking to build a GSMA compliant IoT RSP component or deployment, SGP.31 & SGP.32 (requirements and architecture specifications) explain the why and how to implement the standards.  

Beyond the two core documents, the testing (SGP.33) and conformance (SGP.24 with IoT RSP extensions) documents are used to ensure you can assure your offering is interoperable and have it accepted in the market.

Where appropriate must be referenced together with the consumer specifications SGP.21 v2.4 & SGP.22 v2.5 which set out requirements, architecture and description of eSIM across the board. 

Lastly, not everyone needs to be an expert in these documents themselves to take advantage of these specifications. At Kigen, we have helped connectivity providers as well as device makers/OEMs and ODMs with RSP services that are GSMA Compliant to speed their deployment. You can always reach out to us to understand how best these can be applied for your outcomes.

5G eSIM guidelines updated for IoT

3. Why is a new IoT eSIM specification needed?

IoT is seen as an emerging market, with its origins set in M2M. However, as new technologies diversified cloud connectivity and wider data usage, IoT use cases blur the boundary between consumer and M2M.   

As ideas for new connected things and their deployment options emerge, the original business cases and requirements that initially scoped the M2M and consumer RSP architectures fell short in fulfilling what is now expected for IoT.  

Learning from customer feedback for how pragmatically specifications ease interoperable and scalable IoT has been a core of Kigen’s collaboration at the GSMA. The focus of the collaboration since the initial RSP architecture was defined has been to ensure maximum security for all stakeholders and coverage of evolving needs. Now, with the new specification published, MNOs and providers like Kigen are ready to support OEMs in the knowledge that they offer support for the widest set of use cases.

4. Can you explain the main changes from M2M to IoT eSIM RSP specifications?

There are three main drawbacks to the M2M specifications:

  1. The mandated use of either SMS or HTTPS to deliver the Profile from the SM-DP to the eUICC is challenging for memory-restricted LPWAN devices.
  2. Complex integration between SM-SR and SM-DP.
  3. SM-SR needs to be configured at eUICC manufacturing. In some scenarios, we don’t know which SM-SR will be used at deployment. This makes it harder to support global deployments in countries that may require a swap to comply with regulations.
Kigen shows what's new in eSIM SGP32 specification for IoT vs M2M for eSIM hyper growth

It comes down to the “eIM” (eSIM IoT Manager).

eIM is a standardized eSIM provisioning tool allowing large-scale deployment and management of eSIM‑enabled IoT devices. eIM is defined in GSMA SGP.31 and standardizes the process for the mass deployment of eSIM-enabled IoT devices.

The IoT specifications give interoperable resolutions for all the points described above:

  1. A wider list of protocols has been specified to cover many categories of devices. CoAP/UDP/DTLS has been specified for LPWAN Devices. It is also possible to use HTTP/TCP/TLS for broadband devices. It also defines mechanisms for the eIM to verify the compatibility with the IoT Device.
  2. The eIM can communicate with any IoT Device and any SM-DP+. The IoT Device can communicate with any SM-DP+ or any eIM. There is no need for pre-negotiation between actors.
  3. eIM can now be configured flexibly at eUICC Manufacturing, IoT Device manufacturing, or in the field, whichever suits the manufacturing flow better. The process of adding, deleting, or changing an eIM is fully standardized.

There may be situations in which OEMs may use the older M2M specification; however, with a more capable way to manage large-scale eSIM-based deployments, momentum is shifting to the new RSP IoT Specifications.

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Transitioning to new GSMA eSIM IoT specification

5. How does the transition from the old eSIM M2M specification to new eSIM IoT Specification (SGP.3x) work?

In many IoT use cases and industries, a device has a much longer lifecycle (10-20 years), and contracts in those industries are significantly longer than in consumer use cases. We anticipate that OEMs will take advantage of the simpler eSIM IoT functionality and flexibility for the majority of new deployments. We already see leading businesses in Smart Metering and energy, Logistics, and transportation are active in preparing to use the new IoT specification.

In addition to the eIM, the new eSIM IoT Specification introduces a simplified IoT profile assistant (IPA). This is a tuned local profile agent, available in two variants that can run either directly on the eUICC (LPAe) or in the IoT device (LPAd). Both operate the same way as far as the eIM and SM-DP+ is concerned. Customers can activate local profile switching in more convenient and user-friendly forms. 

Lastly, a common challenge for OEMs is that when an MNO issues profile subscriptions for eUICC, the end deployment model or geography is unknown. With the combination of eIM and Kigen’s Just-in-Time provisioning, OEMs can now support every kind of eUICC with profile customization at the time of profile binding to maximize manufacturing throughput. 

Kigen eSIM RSP simplifies your transition to SGP.32 - M2M to IoT and consumer eSIM

Bonus question! What should companies do today to prepare for this transition?

OEMs and MNOs should consider end-to-end testing for eUICC devices that will use their eSIM IoT solutions. There will be some variances depending on whether the IPA runs in the eUICC or the device module and how these connect to the SM-DP+ and eIM. 

Kigen has been working with Connectivity Service Providers and leading Connectivity Management Platforms to ensure that integration is simplified now that specifications have been published. Our ecosystem’s scale means that we can support OEMs and smaller MNOs that may typically not have as much financial pull as more established players. This means anyone starting today can take advantage of eSIM hyper-growth.