Trufone and Redtea among the first to exploit the Apple eSIM opportunity

Apple’s support of eSIM in its latest iPhones promised to kick-start that market and a couple of specialist companies are leading the way.

UK outfit Truphone, which recently raised £18 million in funding, valuing the company at £386 million, has just launched what it claims is the first eSIM app for the new iPhones. The app exploits the ease and flexibility promised by eSIM to allow users to purchase instant local connectivity for their devices in 80 countries.

“eSIM technology represents a step-change in users’ relationship with their network operator,” said Trufone CEO Ralph Steffens. “By letting people run multiple plans and change operators without having to wait for a traditional SIM card to be delivered, the eSIM is swinging the power balance back in favour of the consumer. By offering our ready-to-go SIM provisioning platform to other mobile operators, we are facilitating a new era of consumer-first mobile plans.”

But Chinese company Redtea Mobile has been doing this stuff for a while too and has a service called eSIM+. It’s a fairly straightforward web platform that allows you to buy connectivity in over 60 countries and requires you to scan a QR code to activate it. Redtea has apparently already activated 100 million eSIMs in China and is now looking further afield.

Possessing only and antiquated Samsung Galaxy S7, we have been unable to put either service to the test, but they both seem pretty straightforward. Trufone’s app seems easier and more intuitive than Redtea’s web platform/QR code combo , but then again you can get 1GB in the UK on eSIM+ for $13, while the deal will cost you £15 with the Trufone app. Both seem worth a look if you have a new iPhone.

Connecting devices: Could iSIM be the key to opening up the IoT?

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Freelance Technology Journalist Kate O’Flaherty offers an in-depth analysis on iSIM, launched by ARM earlier this year. What is it, how does it differ from eSIM, and how will it impact the market?

This year’s saw ARM take aim at the internet of things (IoT) with the launch of iSIM technology – an integrated component built into the same chip as the processor. In many ways it’s similar to eSIM, but because it takes up less space iSIM is ideal for tiny IoT devices.

Among the advantages, iSIM lowers costs for multiple players in the IoT supply chain. It is cheaper than eSIM, because there is no need for an extra chip. In addition, there aren’t any assembly steps, and it results in fewer devices in the supply chain, reducing hardware manufacturing costs as a result.

Ease of integration is another factor that makes iSIM stand out: It reduces complexity because the modem and Sim card are “under one roof”, so there’s nothing for the device maker to integrate, Eden Cohen, senior product manager at Qualcomm, says.

ISIM technology offers multiple benefits for all players within the IoT space, according to Alex Gledhill technical specialist at Intel: “ISIM provides flexibility in business and deployment models, enables more services, simplifies OEM logistics, eliminates sku proliferation –  and there is a lower bill of materials cost, in particular for low power technologies like narrow band IoT (NBIoT) and Category M (Cat-M).”

This is because iSIM is more power efficient. Indeed, the lower price and ease of use associated with iSIM could easily be applied to smart meters or connected cars “where we need high security and low cost”, says Vincent Korstanje, vice president and general manager of the Secure Identity line of business at ARM. “A smart meter needs software updates, but this doesn’t need to be fast,” he points out – which makes it an ideal use case for iSIM.

ARM is predicting that 15% of all IoT devices will have cellular connectivity by 2025. The technology therefore opens up multiple opportunities for operators, because they will potentially see more IoT devices connected to their networks as a result.

Taking this into account, iSIM will also offer interesting use cases in the consumer IoT space, says Korstanje’s colleague, product marketing director Loic Bonvarlet. “This area is really a premium and iSIM might bring new interesting use cases from saved power and space – such as wearables and things integrated into clothing.”

Asset tracking and connected spaces offer more possible use cases for iSIM. “These use cases require a small module that is low cost,” says Korstanje. “When firms are able to track pallets around the world, they can keep a good eye on where things are and therefore improve efficiency.”

At the same time, iSIM can also be used in high end devices, says Gledhill: “For high end devices, iSIM can enable vertical applications such as payment, identity and digital rights management.”

Challenges

It is clear iSIM offers great potential to help drive the growth of IoT, but there are obstacles to be overcome. Guido Abate, STMicroelectronics international standards manager and the GSM Association’s RSPTEST Chair, points out that eSIM is “much more mature than iSIM”.

Gledhill agrees, saying iSIM is “in its infancy” and needs mass market adoption. “To achieve this, it requires system on a chip (SoC) integration, certification process enhancement and an ecosystem that provides the same level or better security than the traditional Sim.”

Remy Cricco, chairman of the board at the SIMalliance says the group’s members are observing “strong technological and business trends” supporting the continued growth of the ecosystem.

However, he adds: “As long as there is demand for strong device and service security – which SIMalliance sees as gaining even more relevance with society becoming increasingly connected – the provision of secure OS and subscription and data management services, remote provisioning capabilities and a comprehensive understanding of mobile operator requirements will be essential.”

Indeed, the standards for eSIM are already underway, with several devices already incorporating the technology. But to a large extent, iSIM can use the existing eSIM ecosystem and back-end infrastructure, says Gledhill.
At the same time, he says, security and certification challenges need to be addressed to satisfy MVNOs’ and mobile operator’s requirements.

But ARM points out that iSIM is in itself very secure. ARM’s iSIM offers its own low footprint OS, called Kigen, which runs on a CryptoIsland secure enclave. This means the Sim identity, a microcontroller and a radio modem can be embedded on the IoT SoC.

This is fully partitioned from the rest of the SoC, with self-contained processing and encryption elements running a secure operating system.

But despite this, Korstanje agrees there is more to be done. “We need to work hard on the standards side, but it’s not massively different: The software stack is the same,” he says.

The future

It’s early days for iSIM, but its future is looking very bright, with devices appearing as soon as next year. According to ARM, iSIM will appear from early 2019, with more announcements due in the first quarter of the year, ramping up for full adoption in 2020.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm says it is planning to offer iSIM within connected PCs running on its Qualcomm snapdragon processors set to launch in 2019.

Other technologies will also help fuel the use of both iSIM and eSIM in devices. For example, Gledhill thinks 5G will be an accelerator for the embedded Sim market. Gledhill explains: “Simply put, 5G will connect more devices – including low power IoT devices, cars, and PCs and tablets – to operator networks.

“This means more deployment and enablement of Sims on various existing and new technologies. It will drive new models and the user or enterprise has the ability to move between networks without physically changing the Sim card. This is particularly useful when applied to IoT devices in the field.”

As the ecosystem matures, there will be many more opportunities for both MVNOs and mobile operators that wish to play in the IoT space. But this will also put pressure on carriers to ensure their networks are up to scratch and able to handle potentially billions of additional devices over the next few years.

Meet with ARM, SIMalliance, G+D and many other eSIM innovators at the e-SIM Connect 2018, taking place at the ILEC Conference Centre in London – 6 – 7 November.

eSIM smartphone market set for growth following Apple iPhone support

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Logan Armendone-Mowbray, Content & Communities Manager at KNect365, explores how with Apple onboard the eSIM market is set for accelerated growth and why the technology is likely to impact operator’s roaming revenues.

The benefits of Apple’s eSIM adoption in the latest iPhones will extend further than just consumers, who will be able to choose an operator dynamically. The decision to expand eSIM support to iPhones is expected to accelerate eSIM market growth in general, boosting deployment and development of the technology.

The eSIM smartphone market is set to reach 420 million units annually by 2022, according to ABI Research. This represents a shift in the eSIM smartphone market from one which was solely occupied by Google and its Pixel devices, which shipped 3.9 million devices in 2017.

“This is the moment industry players were waiting for. With both Apple and Google deploying eSIM enabled devices, this is only going to speed up the adoption of this technology. It is now more important than ever to refine profile portability and management, how greater connected devices can be added to user accounts and to have a clear customer journey mapped out,” says Tania Ferreira, Senior Producer for KNect365’s e-SIM Connect.

Analysts have started to put their bets on Samsung as the next OEM to integrate the eSIM technology to their devices. Phil Sealy, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, shared that “Samsung will likely adopt a tiered approach, integrating the eSIM into its S and Note range first, then expand into its A and C ranges later.” Other names on the ‘who’s next’ list include Huawei, LG and Xiaomi, all companies which offer a range of high-end smartphones. More localized vendors are also expected to come onboard, including OPPO, who are looking to expand beyond China.

As we contemplate which other devices might become eSIM enabled, it is likely that the technology will feature inside the multiple ‘smart’ devices in people’s homes, and shipping companies might start to explore the advantages of eSIM within IoT devices to track goods as they move along the supply chain. Ivan Laden, CEO at Blue Wireless, believes “IoT, 5G, eSIM are all developments which will offer major opportunities in the enterprise and government sector, enabling new applications around augmented reality, robotics and autonomous vehicles to name a few”.

Due to different eSIM solutions for different scenarios, like M2M and consumer market, “there’ll be more start-ups and small companies dedicated to different segmented areas, which could be too fragmented for traditional MNOs to tag in,” says Godfrey St. Claire, Chief Business Officer at Joy Telecom.

eSIM might impact operators’ roaming revenues as it might be incredibly easier for travellers to switch to a local operator when visiting a new country. On a Google’s 2017 blog post, Joy Xi, a product manager for Project Fi, highlighted the flexibility eSIM brings to consumers by explaining that “you no longer need to go to a store to get a SIM card for wireless service, wait a few days for your card to arrive in the mail, or fumble around with a bent paper clip to coax your SIM card into a tiny slot.” Adding that “getting wireless service with eSIM is as quick as connecting your phone to Wi-Fi.”

Joy Telecom focus on roaming and the outbound travel market in the APAC and Europe regions, specially travellers from China, Japan and Korea, is an interesting case study for operators and other MVNOs who might consider the flexibility brought by eSIM a threat to their roaming revenue. Joy combined MVNO and travel businesses together to best serve this niche customer group.

In Godfrey’s own words “for end customers, outbound travellers, telecom service is merely one part of their needs overseas, flight/cruise, hotel, attraction ticket, coupons… so many services they would want during the travel, and Joy wants to be an integrator of these areas.”

The eSIM form-factor is a transformative technology, which will undoubtedly impact the entire SIM value chain, including business models, sales channels, and processes across the smart card, secure IC, Mobile Network Operator and OEM vendor landscape. “This will mark the beginning of a significant required change in the SIM card hardware value chain,” adds Sealy.

Back in 2017, Joy Xi shared that whilst Google was piloting eSIM on their newest Pixel devices with Project Fi. They also looked forward to sharing what they learnt and “work together with industry partners to encourage more widespread adoption”. Now that Apple is onboard, eSIM integration into smartphones seems like fair game and widespread adoption looks much closer to reality.

But for Sealy, “today the market is not ready to completely embrace the eSIM for a number of reasons, and notably this is due to lack of MNO eSIM readiness. OEMs will need to remain mindful of this to continue supporting their respective global client base until all MNOs are ready to make the switch full time.”

The traditional SIM card is not going to disappear anytime soon, and Apple’s new range of iPhones is a testament to this fact, given its dual-SIM functionality. Yet, embedded SIMs present operators with multiple opportunities, including multiple devices subscription which could generate new revenue streams.

 

The e-SIM Connect 2018 is the only dedicated eSIM event. It’s your chance to meet with the eSIM industry leaders; including Kerrie Lenhart Hogan, Google’s Director of Business Development, Communication and Connectivity Products.

X marks the slot as Apple moves to eSIM

Every new Apple iPhone is an X thanks to the launch of the XR, XS and XS Max, with the pricier ones being the first iPhones to support eSIMs.

The latest launches mark the upgrade-and-tweak phase of the iPhone cycle, having unveiled the more fundamentally redesigned X last year. So we have the flagship XS, the over-sized XS Max and the cheaper XR (starting at $999, $1,099 and $749 respectively, with exactly the same numbers in pounds despite there being 1.3 dollars to the pound).

Apple’s marketing is focusing on the new A12 Bionic chip, which is apparently the first one made using the 7nm manufacturing process to ship (Huawei also has a 7nm one in the pipeline). There are the expected upgrades to the screen, camera and other key components, but perhaps the most intriguing to the telecoms industry is the imminent support for eSIM, which removes the need to swap out a physical SIM when you want to switch providers, thus significantly facilitating the process.

“[The] iPhone XS is packed with next-generation technologies and is a huge step forward for the future of the smartphone,” said Apple marketing head Phil Schiller. “Everything is state of the art including the industry-first 7-nanometer A12 Bionic chip with 8-core Neural Engine, faster Face ID and an advanced dual camera system that shoots Portrait mode photos with Smart HDR and dynamic depth of field.”

Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS, reckons operators shouldn’t panic about the increased churn threat posed by eSIM technology. “Many operators will greet Apple’s introduction of eSIMs with apprehension, yet the move should be grasped as an opportunity, rather than feared as a threat,” he said. “This goes for telcos, device manufacturers, and other parties which stand to benefit from a globally connected IoT.

“For consumers, eSIMs present clear advantages thanks to the increased flexibility and seamless device roaming they support, meaning operators can curry favour amongst customers by supporting Apple’s decision.

“In addition, eSIMs provide operators with an opportunity to add multiple devices to subscriber contracts, on a global scale, creating valuable new revenue streams. Manufacturers and logistics firms also stand to benefit, as connected devices with embedded eSIMS can be produced in one region, and then easily shipped and tracked across in the world, giving them access to wider global markets.

“However, sourcing SIM profiles form multiple operators and managing the handover from one to the other presents a challenge. For eSIM strategies – including Apple’s – to be a success, a global eSIM profile must be used. Only then can eSIM’s benefits be full realised.”

Only the more expensive phones get all the latest tech, including the eSIM support that will come with an update to iOS 12 later this year. Apparently it won’t be supported in China for some reason. Here’s a quick spec comparison:

XS – 5.8-inch OLED, 448ppi screen; A12 chip, double 12MP camera, up to 512GB storage

XS Max – 6.5-inch OLED, 448ppi screen; A12 chip, double 12MP camera, up to 512GB storage

XR – 6.1-inch LCD, 326ppi screen; A12 chip, single 12MP camera, up to 256GB storage

Isn’t it amazing that you can now get half a terabyte of storage in a phone? It’ll cost you though, with the 512GB Max coming in at $/£1,449. The phones will start shipping on 21 September. At the same time Apple also refreshed its Apple Watch range and tweaked its HomePod smart speaker, but nobody seems to care.

Connecting devices: Taking advantage of eSIM

Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Freelance Technology Journalist Kate O’Flaherty explores how eSIM enabled devices are already starting to hit the market and asks: what use cases will the area enable, beyond smartphones and smartwatches?

Embedded Sims (eSIM) inside the Apple Watch 3 and Samsung Gear 3 allow consumers to make calls and send texts without pairing to a smartphone. It is thought the technology – which takes away the need for a removable Sim card – will soon appear more widely on mobile phones. According to reports, Apple’s next iPhone launching this autumn will include an eSIM, possibly signalling the death knell for the traditional Sim card.

Beyond smartphones, many more devices will be enabled by eSIM over the coming years. For example, the technology is likely to feature inside the multiple ‘smart’ devices in people’s homes. In addition, shipping companies could take advantage of eSIM within internet of things (IoT) devices to track goods as they move along the supply chain.

With standards around the technology near completion, eSIM will soon appear inside devices such as connected PCs, laptops and tablets. “We expect more devices like laptops, tablets, smart watches and other wearables to come with eSIM over the next few years,” Joacim Rask, Head of Business Development, Tele2, says.

Indeed, the goal of eSIM is to enable new types of devices, Benoit Jouffrey, VP Connectivity and Embedded Solutions at Gemalto points out. It creates an entirely new ecosystem, he says, because eSIM “dematerialises the part of the process” that sees the customer visit a physical shop.

Philippe Lucas, SVP Strategy, Architecture and Standardisation, Orange, agrees, saying: “We believe that the embedded Sim is the enabler to increase the number of devices with cellular connectivity. You can buy a device anywhere you want and add it to your subscription without having to go into a shop.”

This new structure could be taken advantage of by MVNOs. “MVNOs are small players and are very agile; they could find good positioning in this digital journey,” Jouffrey says.

ESIM’s value in specific verticals also opens up opportunities for MVNOs. An MVNO could be the sole provider of connectivity for a car manufacturer, for example, says Jouffrey. “There are some cases when an MVNO might be the sole interface handling connectivity for a car maker across multiple geographies.

This could see MVNOs enter agreements with local operators to download the Sim profile, he says.

But MVNOs are not the only beneficiaries: eSIM provides an opportunity for mobile operators to add more devices to user contracts. “We have an increasing number of connected devices in the home. Using eSIM, you can add new devices to an existing contract,” Jouffrey points out. “If we do that, by definition we have less inclination to churn as it might be more complex.”

New MVNOs

According to Mikael Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS, eSIM allows manufacturers to make a device in one place and ship it around the world. He explains: “When the profile is downloaded to the device, you can enjoy connectivity with local tariffs.”

“Previously, you had to access the device to switch from one operator to another. Now with eSIM, the opportunities for MVNOs to get their own Sim profile to end user devices is facilitated with technology.”

He says this is seeing more MVNOs being launched “especially around data and IoT where they want their own eSIM and to keep control”.

Schachne cites the example of logistics companies tracking shipments around the world. “They don’t know where those shipments will be at any given time, so they need highly reliable global connectivity. The best way to manage this is to become an MVNO.”

He explains: “It is about owning the ecosystem to control the quality and offer new services and integrate with every single mobile operator – as well as gaining access to as many mobile operators as possible.”

Therefore, a large device manufacturer can have the means to integrate with at least one mobile operator in every country and use eSIM to manage the subscription. “ESIM allows you to switch easily from one operator to another,” Schachne says. “However, the difficulty lies in the ability to source those different Sim profiles from multiple mobile operators, as well as managing the hand over from one to another.”

This challenge creates a need for a global eSIM profile, he says, which is why BICS and other carriers have developed solutions able to manage this.

Changing ecosystem

Overall, eSIM is useful because it offers greater flexibility for the OEM, solution provider or end customer, says Tim Sherwood Vice President, Business Development, Mobility and IoT Solutions at Tata Communications. “Without the eSIM model you are still beholden to a single mobile operator, or the relationships they have on the roaming side.”

However, within this changing ecosystem, certain issues must be taken into account. Jouffrey says it is important to provide “a lean, fluid end user experience”. He explains: “We need to have a process that is at a minimum, the same level it is today. This is a challenge when dealing with new technologies and processes.”

Another issue is the number of eSIM-compatible devices. “In order to unleash the potential of this technology you need to have devices that implement it,” says Jouffrey. “All the M2M players are looking at this and dealing with subscription management. On the consumer side, it has potential in the connected PC market and wearables – but you need competing devices that have the same level of fluidity as the Sim card.”

At the same time, security is an area of concern for eSIM used in IoT. “ESIM doesn’t change the security issues in IoT but it probably changes the authentication and authorisation side of it,” says Sherwood. “This includes the hand off when the profile changes and ensuring there is a trusted relationship that this device either belongs to the end enterprise or the OEM providing part of the service.”

There is no doubt eSIM will create a more competitive marketplace for MVNOs and mobile operators. However, it is integral to ensure the eSIM user experience matches or exceeds that of the traditional Sim. Jouffrey says “I don’t think the problem is technological, the issue is the end user experience.”

 

Discover how you can be at the forefront of the technological advancements in eSIM, IoT, PCs, wearables and mobiles at the e-SIM Connect 2018.

Tele2 claims eSIM first in partnership with Microsoft

Sweden’s mobile operator Tele2 announced it will collaborate with Microsoft to enable eSIM on Windows 10 based devices.

A Mobile Plans application will be preloaded on Windows 10 devices coming with embedded SIM, eSIM, chips, e.g. laptops or tablets. When activated, users can take their devices out of Wi-Fi or fixed internet environment and remain connected through Tele2’s mobile network.

eSIM, has been controversial when it comes to mobile operator acceptance. This is chiefly down to the fear that the operators feel they will lose control over and the direct relations with their customers as they do now with the physical SIM cards. By definition, eSIM users can switch operators remotely without visiting a retail shop. In this particular case though, because Tele2 is the first operator to offer eSIM service in Sweden, the concern for churn is mitigated, at least until its competitors follow suit.

This deal can bring multiple benefits. For Tele2, this opens a new revenue stream to mobile broadband, in addition to enhancing its reputation as an innovator. However, we believe the offer in its current form is more a symbolic move than substantial business opportunity.

To start with, consumer PC usage is declining, and not many models are being shipped with eSIM capability. (A quick search for eSIM enabled devices on the homepage of Sweden’s leading electronics store Elgiganten does not return many results.) When PCs are being used, they are mainly in indoor environment where more often than not there is already either a Wi-Fi or a fixed connection in place, and, ironically, where cellular coverage is normally inferior.

In outdoor uses cases, which predominantly are for tablets (and much larger number of smartphones), iOS and Android tablets outsell Windows based tablets (Microsoft’s Surface series and a few 2-1 models primarily made by Lenovo) by a big margin, making the addressable market for this deal very limited.

However this will be a useful test for Tele2 to gauge consumer use patterns, before it expands into the more mainstream iOS and Android segments. Maybe more importantly, it will also serve as a testbed of the technology for the more lucrative corporate market, where PCs are still widely used, without frustrating the corporate IT departments with immature products.

For Microsoft, this is a good (re-)entry point to the mobile market, after its ill-fated venture into smartphones through the partnership, then acquisition, of Nokia’s mobile device business.

Gemalto bags Qualcomm deal for PC eSIMs

Gemalto has announced a new partnership that will see its eSIM solution integrated into Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile PC platform, another incremental step towards the reality of always-connected PCs.

The concept of the eSIM is not a new one, though progress has been relatively slow to date. Some might point towards the operators as the speed bump in the road, as the concept does allow for a simplified transition between connectivity providers, though the technology does have the potential to open up a new wave of innovation. Reprogrammable SIMs would certainly add to the growing IoT trends, removing the hassle of manually changing SIMs.

The partnership itself will see Gemalto’s eSIM technology and remote subscription management solutions integrated into the Snapdragon mobile PC platform’s Secure Processing Unit, allowing for the introduction of consumer applications such as online payments, transport ticketing and authentication to cloud services.

“This new agreement with Qualcomm Technologies aims at accelerating adoption of seamless cellular connectivity in PCs, tablets and other mobile products,” said Frédéric Vasnier, EVP for Mobile and IoT at Gemalto. “We are committed to continued innovation with Qualcomm Technologies in order to provide superior built-in security and connectivity experiences.”

The partnership is set to kick into reality with the launch of the first connected-laptops next year, though this certainly is a good sign for Gemalto. The potential market for eSIMs is monumental, essentially everything which has an IoT use-case, therefore piggy-backing off Qualcomm success is not necessarily a bad more.

AT&T, Verizon and GSMA face collusion investigation

AT&T, Verizon and the GSMA are the subjects of a reported probe from the US Department of Justice as to whether the trio have been blocking or hindering the adoption of eSIMs.

According to the New York Times, the Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation to understand whether the three have been in cahoots to make life difficult for users wanting to switch services to competitors through the eSIM technology, designed to make life fairer for the consumer. Should there be any truth to suspicions of a co-ordinated attack on consumers, there could be some pretty serious consequences.

The DoJ takes these sorts of issues pretty seriously, stating the following on its website: “Consumers have the right to expect the benefits of free and open competition — the best goods and services at the lowest prices. Public and private organizations often rely on a competitive bidding process to achieve that end. The competitive process only works, however, when competitors set prices honestly and independently.”

There have been various examples of the DoJ tackling market collusion in recent years, including an investigation as to whether the four major airline carriers were keeping ticket prices artificially high, with the most stringent of punishments being $100 million. In some circumstances, the fine can be increased to twice the gain or loss involved with the nefarious activity. Although the DoJ will take any collusion accusations seriously, industries where there are a smaller number of providers raise red flags. The telco space is technically a perfect scenario for collusion.

While there has not been a comment from the DoJ, Verizon and AT&T have both downplayed the investigation, brushing off any concerns, while the GSMA has released the following statement.

“This standard contains a wide range of features, including the option for the eSIM to be locked. In the United States, consumers would have this option; however, they would need to explicitly consent to this under specific commercial agreements with their mobile operator, for example when purchasing a subsidised device. The development of the latest version of the specification is on hold pending the completion of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. The GSMA is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter.”

Sources close to the matter have said the investigation was launched after one device manufacturer, said to be Apple, and a competitor of Verizon/AT&T filed complaints the development or actioning of the eSIM technology was being hindered by the trio. The complaint states AT&T, Verizon and the GSMA were pushing the development of the standard down a direction which would not be beneficial to the consumer. One of these developments would be to lock devices into a single provider.

eSIM technology would allow consumers to switch providers without having to physically change the SIM in the handset. It is one way in which the industry is trying to remove the unfair and unjust strangle hold telcos have on their customers. Switching providers is a tiresome and unnecessarily prolonged exercise for users as it stands, as providers make it as difficult as possible; some just give up through frustration which is not the sign of a healthy relationship.

AT&T and Verizon are the dominant players in the US mobile space, controlling around 70% of the market share, though the ability to more seamlessly switch providers might erode this position. The last few years have seen T-Mobile US make very positive steps to challenge the status quo, therefore it might make sense Verizon and AT&T would look to influence standards to protect themselves. The big question is whether this alleged influence would directly hurt competition and consumers. Consumers are often an afterthought for telcos, especially those who are at the top of market share rankings, though protecting the consumer would be top of the priority list for the Department of Justice.

Makan Delrahim, who leads the antitrust division at the DoJ, has previously spoken about the “cartel-like behaviour” of the telcos, while the department is also scrutinising the AT&T/Time Warner deal on the grounds of competition. We get the impression the DoJ is searching for evidence of wrong-doing as opposed to performing an independent investigation. It is a slight nuance, but could swing 50/50 calls.

Q&A with Futoshi Sasaki, Internet Initiative Japan Inc

Deputy Manager of the MVNO Business Management Office, MVNO Division, at Internet Initiative Japan Inc., Futoshi Sasaki spoke with the MVNOs World Congress 2018 team on eSIM, IoT and their impact in the MVNO space.

How does the e-SIM ecosystem look like after the announcement of the 3rd phase of e-sim provisioning specifications?

The most important essence for building e-SIM ecosystem is terminals. The 3rd phase of e-SIM standardization is including many of attractive new features like LPA-API and rich UI for activation. I hope these new outcomes will wake new market demands and bring positive feedbacks for supply side.

What lessons have been learned over the last couple of years and what best practice examples have emerged?

The non-standardized soft SIM technologies have arisen mainly at China, with successful partnership between operators and manufacturers. The lesson is that the innovation will be brought by not only standardization, but also drastic experience of consumers intensely cycling the ecosystem.

How can Telco operators take advantage of greater flexibility enabled by e-SIM? Is it going to be a brand-new world for service providers?

For the next couple of years, partially yes and partially no. e-SIM seem to change the world from the niche, and non-mainstream usecase, such as portable PCs or tablets. Wearables are also promising, but small battery is another issue, so it could take more time waiting for LPWA to become ready.

What are the new applications that can be developed using e-SIM?

I think e-SIM could develop a quite new opportunity for B2B high-reliability market such as banking or ticketing service.

In a nutshell – what is IoT, why should it be of interest for MVNOs and how is the IoT technology changing the world?

Various new players will take their seats in the IoT world, and various new services will be launched. But these variety could have never been treated by only MNOs. Their traditional business models tended to mass market and there is little diversity among them. MVNOs could have their own vantage point in IoT world from this point of view.

Is the market of multiple providers of billing, connectivity, devices and sensors going to consolidate soon?

It might vary by market. In Japan, it seems that the partnership across those markets becomes more likely than fusion of the markets. Maybe in US, some kind of hyper giants can rule the market.

What will the future MVNO become in an IoT and E-SIM world?

I believe e-SIM could make a great success in the IoT world, and Soft SIM would be more prosperous. Soft SIM was not led by MNO but MVNO, so from MVNO perspective Soft SIM should gain more attention from MVNO community.

 

Taking place in Madrid, 23 – 26 April, MVNOs World Congress 2018 is engineered to ignite innovation and accelerate growth in the MVNO space.