Inside the 4th World eSIM Summit: Welcome to the future
A few days ago, the future of the embedded SIM (eSIM) was presented at an important conference in Berlin, the 4th World eSIM Summit. Organised by Luxatia International, leaders of the eSIM world discussed the latest developments occurring in this very exciting field. From industry-leading manufacturer updates to security concerns and solutions, here is your inside guide to the 4th World eSIM Summit.
eSIM updates from industry giants
Earlier this year, Motorola announced the first eSIM-only smartphone called the RAZR 2020. This is the world’s first eSIM-only phone and thus, does not have a physical SIM slot. Having hit the US market last week priced at $1500, it has set the stage for other manufacturing giants to announce their commitment to eSIM technology.
News at the summit, is that it looks very much like Nokia will launch their first eSIM-fitted smartwatch at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona later this month. Their holding company, HMD, has recently filed a patent for an eSIM-related feature called ‘SMILEY’, expected to be related to both their smartwatch and new smartphone.
It will be interesting to see what other eSIM devices are launched over the next few weeks. MWC has now been cancelled due to coronavirus, however one would imagine that there will still be product launches.
eSIM applications in the most unlikely of places
On a positive note, the summit’s host city gave its attendees very good exposure to a real life eSIM application in the form of eScooters that were available to rent. All you had to do was download an App, and enter your credit card details and the number of the scooter that you had found. An eSIM in the scooter enabled it to be activated for the appropriate timescale and you were on your bike. The possibilities are endless.
Equally interesting is that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) will be shipping their new Defender shortly, with two eSIMS fitted into the model; one to control the telematics automation that is built into the car and the other for the infotainment system inside. Clearly it won’t be long before every new vehicle launched will have built-in communications as a connected car. And when low latency 5G service eventually becomes available, the driverless car will become a reality thanks to the eSIM. JLR are cleverly comparing the two eSIMs to the two halves of the brain: “Like the brain, one side of the system looks after logical functions, while the other takes care of more creative tasks.”
GSMA’s predictions for the next five years
The GSM Association (GSMA) – which oversees eSIM standards and specifications – presented an array of research at the summit, indicating enormous growth in the field; 33% of the installed base of smartphones globally would have an eSIM in 2025, while in Europe, it is forecast that nearly half of all the 500 million smartphones being used in 2025 will have an eSIM fitted. In addition, the GSMA expects there to be around 3 billion Internet of Things (ioT) cellular connections by the same year, driven mainly by the Chinese market.
eSIM growth raises security concerns
However, a considerable amount of the discussion at the summit concerned the importance of KYC (‘Know Your Customer’) requirements for the global acceptance of eSIM technology. It is clear, in the long-term, that the regulators in most countries will not accept a situation where someone can buy and download a mobile service without any form of ID authentication of the person making the purchase.
For this reason, the industry is working on various methods of ID verification. These are identical to the ones used by banks and involve ID scan submissions which are processed through automation. This kind of authentication can typically be done in a couple of hours, but times may shorten as methods of digital authentication are adopted.
Central among a lot of the approaches for pure digital authentication is the Mobile Connect standard from the GSMA. The main players in the field are the eSIM manufacturers, including Thales, who have begun launching their own platforms for ID verification. Taking the approach of turning every set-back into an opportunity, it was suggested that if eSIM were able to make ID authentication easier then they could be used universally in other applications that require ID verification
However, in some countries the requirements for security are being taken further. For example, Turkish regulation requires that the eSIM Subscription Manager (SM) is actually located in Turkey. If this stringent approach was adopted by many other countries it would severely slow down the roll out of eSIM services.
GSMA eSIM specification in IoT or M2M applications
Another common thread among the presentations at the 4th World eSIM Summit was the desire to start using the consumer GSMA eSIM specification in IoT or M2M applications. It is clear that the connectivity decision-making process when users purchase an ‘open market’-IoT device is very different from that for a ‘service provider’-supplied IoT device. In the former, it is the consumer that will choose the connectivity service. The most obvious thing holding this back are the limited User Interfaces (UI) present in IoT devices and the current requirement in the GSMA specifications for ‘user consent’. This prevents the user from simply scanning a QR code in the same way that they would for a smartphone. It seems generally accepted that the best way around this is to use a companion device (smartphone) to scan the QR code and communicate this through a Bluetooth-like technologyto the IoT device.
Interestingly, a developer from Apple presented his work on Web Bluetooth using a light-weight OS called ZephyrOS, with the LPA split between the companion device and IoT device achieving this. Unfortunately, however, the current version of GSMA specification does not seem to support this.
IoT SAFE Initiative
Another widely discussed topic at the World eSIM Summit 2020 was the IoT SAFE initiative from the GSMA. This is a method for providing secure end-to-end communications in IoT applications using a SIM STK Applet. ARM presented their method of implementation on their ISIM platform, while Oracle reinforced the benefits of using Java to achieve this. This application is not specific to eSIM as it can be used on conventional removable SIMs and ISIMs.
The next iteration of eSIM technology
What was clear from the summit was that there is a battle going on with regards to the next iteration of eSIM technology – the integration of the eSIM functionality inside the actual System On a Chip (SoC) that contains the GSM modem. ARM are heavily promoting their ISIM solution based on their Kigen SIM OS, Deutsche Telekom (DT) have launched a light-weight integrated IoT solution called nuSIM, while the GSMA and ETSI are working out a standard. The nuSIM reduces the profile size down to 500 bytes, allowing the use of a smaller memory chip and providing a faster download. It would appear that a lot of industry players are supporting several approaches at the moment as both ARM and DT are claiming support from most of the big actors. It would appear that, in the end, it will come down to whatever ARM and Qualcomm are able to push, with Apple – perhaps – having a say. It should be interesting to see the demonstrations from the various players at MWC.
Private LTE networks enabled by eSIMs
It would appear that because of the ease of getting a license in some countries, there is a growing market for private LTE networks. It was agreed that eSIM technology would make it easier for users to register on these private networks. It was even suggested (perhaps wishful thinking) that if the eSIM could provide a ubiquitous ease of registration to private LTE networks, then these might start to replace WiFi networks.
Upcoming events and more information
All in all, the 4th World SIM Summit was a very informative and thought-provoking conference. Expectations are high for eSIM technology to progress further and there should be some planned product launches in the next few weeks in place of Mobile World Congress.