Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Yuval Mayron, General Manager, IoT at Amdocs, takes a look at the business environment created by the mainstream adoption of eSIM technology.
When Apple declared in September that its handsets would have eSIM capabilities, the technology was still in its infancy. Widespread adoption was still someway off, but it’s integration into the iPhone X as part of a dual-SIM function was a clear indication of the significant role it would play in the next generation of mobile technology.
The eSIM incursion
Unlike its predecessor, eSIM is built into the mobile handset, part of a global specification from the GSMA that enables remote SIM provision for any device.
Although most smartphones do still have a physical SIM slot, eSIM is already taking hold. The latest models of the iPhone and Google Pixel have eSIM capabilities, for example.
However, it’s not just the smartphone market that will be bolstered by the arrival of eSIM. The technology is set to be a key growth driver for the Internet of Things (IoT). Consumer devices, which require always-on connectivity, such as wearables (e.g. Apple Watch or Fitbit), connected home devices (e.g. Amazon Echo), laptops and tablets, will all reap the rewards of eSIM and its ability to connect consumer and enterprise IoT devices.
eSIM will transform the mobile ecosystem, and widespread adoption of the technology will have significant ramifications for many of the industries stakeholders.
Consumers, the enterprise, CSPs and suppliers – the eSIM beneficiaries
According to the GSMA, eSIM is expected to create $8.96 billion in revenues by 2020. With this figure in mind, it’s understandable that stakeholders in the industry are jostling for a slice of the eSIM pie.
Amongst those to benefit most from the technology’s introduction are consumers and communication service providers (CSPs), but eSIM will also present opportunities for the enterprise and suppliers too.
eSIM enables users to download multiple digital profiles (up to eight at any given time) from the cloud, directly onto their device; empowering subscribers to switch operators with unprecedented ease.
As eSIM enables subscribers to connect more devices, operators can offer multi-device packages and bespoke data plans. With eSIM, device bundling will become much easier, and consumers will be able to conveniently add new devices to their plans without having to enter a shop or wait for a physical SIM card to arrive in the post. Ultimately, consumers will benefit from reduced costs and enhanced customer experience through simplified device setup.
Businesses are set to profit from the convenience of eSIM too; adding new phones to a corporate mobile service and swapping devices between users with ease. The technology will also enable enterprises to offer personalised profiles and data plans for each user, which can be adjusted and optimised via eSIM remote management tools, depending on the individual needs of the employee.
Furthermore, any business that relies on IoT systems is likely to profit from the cost saving benefits of eSIM. Enterprises can remotely connect equipment to a mobile network using eSIM, which uses less space and is cheaper than traditional SIM technology. Consequently, mobile connectivity can be integrated into hardware where it was previously not feasible due to cost and space restrictions. This will be particularly useful to large-scale machine-to-machine deployments such as manufacturing and warehousing facilities, oil and gas, or power plants.
The increase in multi-device packages, enabled by consumer and enterprise adoption of eSIM, should also present new revenue opportunities for mobile operators as customers scale-up their plans by adding new data-centric devices.
In fact, the opportunity for CSPs is tremendous. With the growing proliferation of smart devices across every consumer and business market, the demand for mobile, wireless connections will skyrocket. These opportunities will only be augmented by the arrival of 5G, which is yet to realise its full potential.
Manufacturers and suppliers
On the face of it, the arrival of the new eSIM standard should spell the end for the manufacturers and suppliers of SIM cards, with the physical SIM all but obsolete. However, eSIM, combined with the momentum behind connected devices, opens up a number of exciting and untapped markets.
Each new device and future innovation in the connected devices space is, in theory, primed for eSIM technology and ripe with opportunity for manufacturers and suppliers. It’s all about supply and demand, after all.
eSIM adoption – the business and technology challenges
Despite the rosy picture that eSIM presents, there remain a number of practical business and technology challenges which need to be addressed by CSPs before it can realise its full potential.
The new eSIM customer experience is complicated by the fact that each original equipment manufacturer (OEM) has its own proprietary processes and screens. Onboarding these, as well as BSS integration and modification, is convoluted, and new protocols, processes, integrations and certifications will be required.
There may also be challenges when troubleshooting eSIM-enabled devices. Call centre support agents are not currently able to analyse profile download issue for all eSIM-enabled devices from one screen and will therefore not be able to perform proactive corrective actions.
These issues could be further complicated by the need for integration with other ecosystem players, such as retailers, point of sale, channels and roaming, which will each require its own solution.
Overcoming the eSIM challenge
eSIM represents a seismic shift in the way the mobile ecosystem operates, so it’s only natural that there will be some teething problems before the technology is up and running smoothly.
For eSIM to succeed, operators need to develop a solution that enables a simple and intuitive customer experience, with seamless support for all functionalities and capabilities that we’ve come to expect from the latest generation of connected devices. This will only be possible if call centre and customer service agents have visibility of devices and control from a single screen.
The other issue is that of compatibility and integration. CSPs need a solution that will work in tandem with the full range of eSIM-enabled devices along with billing systems that work with all the relevant players and platforms in the ecosystem.
Achieving such capabilities is a complex undertaking, which will almost certainly require a specific enabler. This will likely be in the form of an eSIM cloud solution, which would allow integration to all device OEMs and services providers, enabling a one-time integration, and eliminating the need to integrate hundreds of times with all the different players.
This will result in a unified experience in eSIM lifecycle management, for every device type, every OEM, channel, and location, effectively and seamlessly managing settlement among all ecosystem stakeholders.
With a cloud solution in place, eSIM technology could finally be primed for take-off.