The eSIM Standards & Specifications
Published: May 26, 2023
Any prospective new global technology must be controlled to function globally, and some common criteria must be followed. The same can be said about eSIM. However, before we begin, we should first understand the fundamentals. There are articles on the evolution of this technology that you can read. In fact, we have a few articles on these topics that you can refer to: [What, How, and Whys of SIM Cards! & eSIM: The Solution].
Taking the topic a step further, we can now comprehend the requirements and standards for eSIM. Most importantly, we shall learn who governs these standards and requirements. We will also learn why they were required in the first place. So let’s get right into the discussion if this seems interesting.
How did it all start?
The significance of eSIM technology was first recognized in the M2M industry, where device manufacturers are deploying devices internationally in a variety of verticals like automobiles, vending machines, smart metres, and so on. Before these devices could be deployed, they needed to reach a commercial agreement with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). As more devices are deployed, switching mobile providers at the end of a contract becomes more complicated. The major SIM card makers saw an opportunity and quickly developed proprietary solutions. The solution met the market needs but brought new challenges. In one setup, no solution provider could reach all market network operators. For example, a car manufacturer may opt for a solution that only supports a small number of operators globally. If they wish to increase the number of operators, they must raise the solution, which has a cost, and operators must pay an additional price for each solution provider they want to incorporate. This posed a challenge to the market.
The GSMA Association
The GSMA association represents over 500 operators and associate members globally. It was aware of the problem or potential solutions and decided to develop a single global specification for the eSIM. Development on M2M began in 2010 and was published at the end of 2013. The GSMA began producing comparable specifications for consumer devices in 2015. Now one may ask a question here; why are there two specs, one for M2M and one for consumers? The answer is in decision-making intelligence. M2M devices do not choose which network operator to connect to on their own. Instead, the backend server makes all decisions. On the other hand, the consumer decides which mobile operator to connect to, which is why M2M is a push-based mechanism and the consumer is a pull-based mechanism.
During this session, we’ll go over both standards in greater detail, focusing on the Consumer standard because it incorporates all of the learnings while being produced later than the M2M specification.
Before we deep dive into Consumer Architecture
Let’s compare physical and eSIM cards in terms of their states. On the left is a mobile device and three SIM cards. Only one or two of the SIM cards can be inserted into the device, and the third is most likely kept in the wallet. Whereas on the right, three eSIM profiles have been downloaded into one handset. One can be enabled at a time, and the other can be uninstalled. The user can change the status of these profiles, but only one can be enabled at a time. However, this technical limitation of activating only one profile at a time has been removed in newer versions of the specification, and many device makers can now enable two profiles simultaneously. If the user doesn’t want to use the SIM card, they can remove it from the handset and delete the profile in eSIM to make room. This demonstrates how simple it is for end users to use eSIM, as it allows them to choose, enable, disable, and delete eSIM.
Insert SIM Card
Remove SIM Card
Destroy SIM Card
eSIM is a global technology that must be managed by conventions and regulations, as well as having its own business arrangement and ecosystem. This is where the GSMA comes in. The GSMA establishes the required norms and levels the playing field for every player in this ecosystem.
The technology needed to have the appropriate standards and specifications in place, not only to guide the players but also to ensure the general development and success of eSIM as a technology. Another aspect that must not be overlooked was the general security of the technology. The GSMA cleared the ground for eSIM by overseeing all of these components.
However, because the application areas are so different, the requirements for consumer devices and M2M devices cannot be the same. This is why the eSIM specifications for both of them are defined independently.
Stay Tuned for the Next Blog – The Consumer eSIM Specifications.
Rajat is an eSIM enthusiast working as Global Sales Director at Redtea Mobile. He has extensive years of experience in the SIM, eSIM, and IoT industries. He has been consistently focused on solving the problems of mobile network operators and providing a complete end-to-end eSIM solution to them and other related enterprises in the simplest way.
Like this article?