A Change in eUICC Specification
Initially, SIM cards were primarily designed for consumers and were provided in a more static manner. Since people did not travel internationally for extended periods of time, they could connect to a single network and use temporary roaming when needed. If a user wanted to switch networks, they could simply replace their SIM card.
As more edge devices were used by enterprises in the so-called Machine-to-Machine (M2M) format and global deployment became popular, it became evident that a home network versus a roaming network was not a viable, long-term option for M2M.
Permanent roaming was introduced as an option, but it was never a true solution to the issue, and problems regarding permanent roaming continue to mount. As device manufacturers only sometimes know where a device will eventually be deployed, a multi-SKU SIM approach was born. The organization leveraging the devices would have to physically swap SIMs when changing to a new network.
The Development of eUICC
Because of that friction and the increasing use of M2M, GSMA created the eUICC with Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) functionality to allow network profiles on devices to be provisioned and managed over the air (OTA).
The creation of eUICC introduced new benefits:
- For device manufacturers, this created a single SKU approach to cellular devices, where a single agnostic SIM could be embedded or inserted and then later provisioned when ready to deploy. A smaller footprint in the device for the SIM created an opportunity to reduce device size.
- For distributors, the single SKU approach simplifies logistics and allows distributors to cater more to individual requirements.
- For MNOs, this created an opportunity for market expansion and eliminated the need for SIM distribution.
- For organizations, subscription management went digital and removed the roadblocks of needing to physically swap SIMs, which, in many IoT use cases, were impossible due to the sheer scale of deployments in remote locations.
eUICC technology, which means embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card, accommodates multiple SIM profiles. These profiles are the operator and subscriber cellular networks’ login data. Essentially, this takes multiple individual SIM cards – for example, Vodafone, EE, and O2 – and allows the user to consolidate all three operator profiles into a single SIM.
How the eUICC Works
The GSMA created two versions of the eUICC eSIM: M2M and consumer. The M2M eSIM was first developed due to demand and simplicity because it is based on a push model since there is no end-user involvement.
This method leverages three elements:
- SM-DP (Subscription Manager- Data Preparation) which prepares, stores, and protects operator profiles, and it downloads and installs profiles on the eUICC.
- SM-SR (Subscription Manager – Secure Routing) which manages the status of profiles on the eUICC and secures the delivery of operator profiles between the eUICC and the SM-DP.
- eUICC holds the profiles and can be embedded or built using any SIM form factor.
The consumer model is a pull model that gives the end user control to remotely provision and the local management of operator profiles.
This method leverages four elements:
- SM-DP+ acts as both the SM-DP and SM-SR of the M2M solution, so it prepares, stores, protects, downloads, and installs profiles and manages the profiles’ status and delivery.
- LPA (Local Profile Assistant) provides the capability to download profiles to the eUICC and allows end users to manage the status of profiles.
- eUICC holds the same function as the M2M eUICC.
- SM-DS is the pathway for the SM-DP+ to reach the eUICC without having the network specified.
The difference in the two solutions comes down to control. In the consumer eSIM, it has a user interface that pulls (downloads) the profile from the backend. This is done on a device-by-device basis. For the M2M eSIM, the profile is pushed to the device and can be done for whole fleets of devices at once. Essentially, the end user has more control in the consumer eSIM and the M2M eSIM control is managed remotely.
The Change in eUICC Specification
Recently, the GSMA changed the standard for the M2M eUICC to make it act similar to the consumer eSIM.
- Changing a connectivity provider requires new system integrations between the current and new provider, which can be challenging and costly.
- Lower-complexity (constrained) devices that wake periodically and transmit small data packets created challenges with the previous standard. The standard required SMS, fast response to instructions, more complex protocols, and large profile downloads, many of which these lower-complexity devices could not manage.
This new standard, SGP .31/32 uses a backend server called the eSIM IoT Manager to act as a proxy user interface. This pulls a profile download from the MNO or can push profiles to single devices or fleets.
Altogether, the new standard provides the benefits of:
- No longer requires SMS communications, which explicitly supports NB-IoT
- The eSIM IoT Manager allows devices to use lightweight protocols instead of HTTP to connect to the internet
- Integrations between providers are simplified
The road to detangling the complexities of IoT has been long. The development of the eSIM created significant opportunities for global connectivity and widespread IoT. Constrained devices are major players in IoT, and further development was required for a significant proliferation of the eUICC eSIM.
What Technologies Converge with eUICC?
An interesting approach that leverages eUICC technology includes Multi-IMSI, where the best of both worlds can help truly achieve global coverage. Want to learn more? Reach out to our floLIVE experts!