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  • Thierry Spanjaard

From taboo to mainstream

One is always criticized for being right too early. The eSIM, which was a taboo a few years ago, is now a mainstream technology. eSIM in IoT is totally accepted while eSIM in consumer handsets is just at its beginning as demonstrated by the launch of the latest iPhone and a few Android models incorporating eSIMs.

Our industry is coming up with a wealth of eSIM related announcements ahead of the Mobile World Congress.

According to a recent eSIM survey by Gemalto, more than 250 eSIM management platforms are already deployed worldwide, which represents 25% of all mobile operators. Operators have started to transform their mobile connectivity lifecycle management policy to fully embrace the eSIM potential.

Gemalto introduces its 5G SIM, compliant with the latest ETSI 3GPP specifications and SIMalliance recommendations, bringing only improved data privacy and 5G global roaming imposed while adding enhanced protection against hacking. The Gemalto 5G SIM will be available in all SIM form factors (removable SIM, M2M SIM, eSIM). Its features include a full anonymization of end-to-end subscriber identities thanks to onboard identity encryption. A seamless 5G roaming experience is also supported, maximizing revenues and enhancing the customer experience.

G+D Mobile Security announces a solution for device manufacturers combining the eUICC (Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) and the eSE (Embedded Secure Element) on a single chip. This allows the embedded SIM functionality to be combined with other services such as mobile payment, ticketing or secure authentication, says G+D. The solution, which can include Visa or Mastercard payment solutions, chip card and transit schemes such as Mifare or FeliCa, allows handset vendors to better integrate SIM functions and to propose additional services.

G+D Mobile Security introduces eSIM Device Enablement Service (eDES), its eSIM mobile device management (MDM) solution targeting Enterprise customers. With eDES, Swisscom Enterprise customers who use MobileIron MDM will be able to deploy and manage their employees’ mobile subscriptions online.

Idemia, along with Microsoft, pushes for the adoption of eSIM in the PC market. The increasing weight of Cloud storage and services creates a demand for constant connectivity. Microsoft announced the support for eSIM in Windows 10 in 2016, leading to an increasing interest from PC makers and hardware vendors who create modems that now support eSIMs. According to Idemia, “in the smartphone market, we anticipate all major manufacturers will include eSIM in their flagship lineup within 24 months. In the wearables market, operators are also preparing for the growth of eSIM-enabled devices.” However, the challenge is to get this new ecosystem to a level of maturity.

Gemalto focuses on the mobile subscriber enrollment with its Trusted Digital Identity Services Platform. With this platform, mobile network operators (MNOs) can address challenges such as compliance with anti-fraud regulations as well as the need to implement far more efficient processes for customer enrollment. The first stage is to capture the customer's personal details, using supporting evidence from a diversity of ID documents or other types of customer credentials, along with biometrics, including fingerprints and facial capture with liveness detection. All the captured information is verified in real time using Gemalto Trusted Digital Identity Services Platform and, if required, third party checks can also be integrated. With the customer's details authenticated, the enrollment is completed with the creation of a Trusted Digital Identity

Gemalto also comments on the eSIM integration with Android. Since October 2018, with Android 9 Pie, the most widely spread Operating System now supports eSIM: the Android framework provides standard APIs for accessing eSIM and managing subscription profiles on the eSIM. Already, Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones include open GSMA-compliant eSIM technology, in addition to a nano-SIM, and thus work with eSIM-ready mobile operators like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T. Gemalto considers that with the help of Android’s worldwide footprint, Android eSIM support is a fantastic driver for increasing eSIM and adoption among consumer device markets worldwide among developing economies in particular.

Smaller players are also announcing their SIM solutions. Oasis Smart SIM, an eSIM embedded OS, mobile networks connectivity and activation solutions provider, has selected NedCard, a specialist in semiconductor packaging for smart cards and M2M, to further optimize and secure its supply chain for the manufacturing, personalization and remote management of embedded SIMs for the M2M market. Thanks to these players, manufacturing is integrated in the same security perimeter as personalization and post-issuance subscription management to ensure the integrity of the whole chain, making the offer compliant with the GSMA series of eSIM specifications.

Semiconductor, operating systems, embedding, packaging, enrolment and subscriber management solutions are all fitting together to complete the puzzle of the eSIM, especially for the development of 5G. Now, other stakeholders such as network equipment vendors, mobile network operators, and other players have to do their part to make the eSIM option successful, especially for 5G.

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