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  • Thierry Spanjaard

After the eSIM, the iSIM!

There is a consensus saying that if mobile communication was started from scratch nowadays in our always-on, always-connected world, handsets would not include a detachable SIM card: a good conception rule is not to include two microprocessors in a single device. So, the mobile communication industry is evolving towards the iSIM defined as the inclusion of SIM functions in the baseband processor, leading to have one single microprocessor that will include always more functions. This is even more true in the IoT context than in the consumer handset one, as more integration leads to lower electrical consumption, reduced costs, better security and easier maintenance. For both IoT developers and handset vendors, the iSIM can offer device makers further opportunities to save space and reduce build and supply chain costs while maintaining their security level.

Since the inception of the SIM card, efforts were made to reduce its format, starting from a full ISO 7811 (like regular smart cards) format, and then going to Mini SIM, Micro SIM, and Nano SIM. The evolution to the eSIM was a bit hectic, as mobile network operators tried to resist for years to this change as they felt that the SIM was carrying their brand image, and the replacement by an eSIM would make churn even easier for subscribers. On the other hand, the evolution from a detachable SIM to an eSIM made so much sense in the IoT environment that it was widely adopted, and then there was no way to prevent the spread to the consumer handset market.

The evolution from the eSIM to the iSIM may be easier: already in 2020, the GSMA had already defined the IoT SAFE standard in IoT security. The GSMA IoT SAFE (IoT SIM Applet For Secure End-2-End Communication) is a recognition the iSIM is the most secure location to process and secure the data exchange from chip to cloud.

Earlier this week, during the Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm and Thales announced their GSMA Compliant iSIM on the Snapdragon mobile platform. The development is adapted to both the IoT and consumer handset markets, they say. The iSIM enables the functionality of a SIM within a smartphone’s main processor, providing the same level of security and flexible ‘anytime anywhere’ connectivity as a regular SIM. In addition, the Qualcomm – Thales iSIM is compliant with the GSMA Remote SIM Provisioning standard; meaning its subscriptions are remotely manageable through any standard platforms.

Kaleido Intelligence research suggests the iSIM market share will to 300 million units by 2027, representing 19% of all eSIM shipments. Counterpoint Research is even more enthusiast as they forecast 488 million iSIM-compliant consumer devices will be shipped in 2025.

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