In a world that is increasingly digital and virtual, the use of embedded SIMs (eSIM) and soft SIMs are starting to gather pace. Simply put, a device with an eSIM comes with a SIM chip built in, straight out of the box. A device with a soft SIM doesn’t have any SIM hardware at all; the SIM functionality is delivered onto the device virtually, or over the air (OTA), once the user switches it on.
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Both these technologies make the process of starting to use a new device, such as a smartphone, simpler and quicker. And they help break down traditional (and costly) geographical barriers when it comes to mobile connectivity between different countries. What’s also exciting is that they open up a new world of possibilities when it comes to form factors: to date, having to squeeze in a SIM or even a micro SIM has limited manufacturers’ options when it comes to items that can be equipped with connectivity. That’s no longer an issue, spurring innovation by bringing connectivity to previously unconnected “things.”
Truly borderless mobility
Imagine you are on a round-the-world trip of a lifetime — starting from the U.S. East Coast, stopping in the UK, then venturing down to South Africa, moving on to discover the Asia-Pacific region, and then flying back to Europe before returning home to the U.S. Currently, most of us would buy local SIM cards when travelling — they are cost-effective and offer good network connectivity. The issue is that a device may be locked for a specific MNO’s SIM — and it’s a pain having to buy a new SIM the moment you step off the plane in a new country. Now, thanks to global Wi-Fi hotspot devices, people can stay connected while roaming, without the hassle of changing SIM cards or fearing bill shock due to high roaming charges.
Soon, billions of IoT devices will be connected worldwide — and just like when people travel from country to country, eSIMs and soft SIMs will play a central role in how quickly and seamlessly all those things connect too.
The challenge for IoT device manufacturers is that the standard method of soldering or inserting IoT SIMs by hand into devices is time-consuming and expensive. eSIMs enable device manufacturers to not only embed connectivity into anything without a physical chip, but to also reprogram SIMs OTA for millions of devices simultaneously.
Take the manufacturing industry for an example. Imagine a global steel plant, where all workers wear an IoT-enabled activity tracker type bracelet to monitor key variables, such as air quality and heart rate, to help ensure their health and safety in tough conditions. Being able to reprogram eSIMs inside all the wearable devices OTA simplifies their management and helps to make global IoT deployment more practical and affordable.
Another example is a logistics business with hundreds of vehicles in its fleet, each vehicle equipped with IoT-enabled sensors collecting huge amounts of telemetry data every day. The challenge for the company is how to harness the full power of all this data for maximum insights and efficiencies, without breaking the bank due to roaming charges as its vehicles cross from one country to the next. eSIMs and soft SIMs can help slash roaming costs in this scenario by automatically switching mobile networks, or reprogramming the SIM OTA with a new profile to ensure best rates and coverage. It doesn’t stop there though — an eSIM-enabled managed service can also include other value-add services for logistics, such as localization, scheduling, asset management, temperature sensing, video monitoring and vehicle diagnostics — all integrated with the core supply chain management systems of the business.
Adapt and thrive
As eSIMs and soft SIMs start to become mainstream, we may well see a shift in the competitive landscape for not just MNOs, but for the whole mobile ecosystem. New device form factors and IoT applications will emerge, and businesses will be able to unleash the full potential of truly global mobile and IoT services.
So, rather than the end of an era, these new SIM technologies should be considered as a new beginning — one that gives all businesses in the mobile world the chance to renew and reinvigorate what they bring to the sector today and tomorrow. This evolution will favor those who are ready, willing and able to adapt and become more agile in response to new competitive pressures and opportunities.
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