Evolution of SIM Card
Evolution of SIM cards. An eSIM is not removable.

An eSIM (embedded-SIM) is a form of SIM card that is embedded directly into a device. Instead of an integrated circuit located on a removable SIM card, typically made of PVC, an eSIM consists of software installed onto an eUICC chip permanently attached to a device. If the eSIM is eUICC-compatible, it can be re-programmed with new SIM information. Otherwise, the eSIM is programmed with its ICCID/IMSI and other information at the time it is manufactured, and cannot be changed. Different mobile telephones may not support an eSIM, may have a permanently programmed, unchangeable one, or one that can be reprogrammed for any carrier that supports the technology. Phones may support physical SIMs only, eSIM only, or both.[1]

Once an eSIM carrier profile has been installed on an eUICC, it operates the same as a physical SIM, complete with a unique ICCID and network authentication key generated by the carrier.

The eSIM standard was first released in 2016; since that point, eSIM has begun to replace physical SIM in domains including cellular telephony.

History

Since 2010, the GSMA had been discussing the possibility of a software-based SIM.[2]

While Motorola noted that eUICC is geared at industrial devices, Apple "disagreed that there is any statement forbidding the use of an embedded UICC in a consumer product".[citation needed] Currently, the GSMA maintains two different versions of the standard: one for consumer devices[3] and another for machine to machine (M2M) devices.[4]

A first version of the standard was published in March 2016, followed by a second version in November 2016.

Implementation

In 2016, the Samsung Gear S2 Classic 3G smartwatch was the first device to implement an eSIM.[5]

In 2017, during Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm introduced a technical solution, with a live demonstration, within its Snapdragon hardware chip associated with related software (secured Java applications).[citation needed]

Apple first introduced eSIM support in September 2017 with the Apple Watch Series 3.[6] The first iPhone models to support it were the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max,[7] and iPhone XR,[8] announced in September 2018. The first iPad model was the iPad Pro (3rd generation),[9] announced in October 2018. In September 2022, Apple unveiled the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max, the first iPhone models not to have a SIM card tray and to work exclusively with eSIM.[10] Outside the United States, all iPhone models continue to be sold with support for both eSIM and physical SIM cards, while in mainland China eSIM isn't supported at all.

Google unveiled the Pixel 2 in October 2017, which added eSIM support for use with its Google Fi service.[11] In 2018, Google released the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and subsequently in May 2019, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, with eSIM support for carriers other than Google Fi.[12][13][14] In October that same year, Google released the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL with eSIM support.[citation needed]

Motorola released the 2020 version of the Motorola Razr, a foldable smartphone that has no physical SIM slot since it only supports eSIM.[citation needed]

Plintron implemented the eSIM4Things Internet of things product, based on eSIM support for the devices and available in 28 countries.[15]

Microsoft introduced eSIM to the Windows 10 operating system in 2018[16] and launched its first eSIM-enabled device, Surface Pro LTE, in 2017.[17]

Samsung shipped Galaxy S21 and S20 series smartphones in the US with eSIM hardware onboard but no software support out of the box. The feature was later enabled with the One UI version 4 update.[18] However, the implementation of the eSIM on the S21 and S20 in the US is different than the implementation in the rest of the world.

Design

A traditional SIM card consists of an integrated circuit located on a universal integrated circuit card (UICC), typically made of PVC, which is manually inserted into a device. By contrast, an eSIM is a virtualized SIM card profile installed onto an eUICC chip permanently surface-mounted to a mobile device at the factory. The eUICC chip used to host the eSIM uses the same electrical interface as a physical SIM as defined in ISO/IEC 7816 but with a small format of 6 mm × 5 mm. Once an eSIM carrier profile has been installed on an eUICC, it operates in the same way as a physical SIM, complete with a unique ICCID and network authentication key generated by the carrier.[19]

Usage

An eSIM is typically provisioned remotely; end-users can add or remove operators without the need to physically swap a SIM from the device.[20] All eSIMs are programmed with a permanent eSIM ID (EID) at the factory.[21] This number is used by the provisioning service to associate the device with an existing carrier subscription as well as to negotiate a secure channel for programming.[citation needed]

Specifications

eSIM is a global specification by the GSMA that enables remote SIM provisioning of any mobile device. GSMA defines eSIM as the SIM for the next generation of connected consumer devices. Networking solutions using eSIM technology can be widely applied to various Internet of things (IoT) scenarios, including connected cars (smart rearview mirrors, on-board diagnostics (OBD), vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots), artificial intelligence translators, MiFi devices, smart earphones, smart metering, GPS tracking units, DTU, bike-sharing, advertising players, video surveillance devices, etc. eSIMs effectively resolve hotspot tethering issues, ensuring stable, seamless connectivity.[citation needed]

One common physical form factor of an eUICC chip is commonly designated MFF2.[22]

The European Commission selected the eUICC format for its in-vehicle emergency call service, known as eCall, in 2012.[23] All new car models in the EU must have one by 2018 to instantly connect the car to emergency services in case of an accident.[24]

Russia has a similar plan with the GLONASS (national satellite positioning system) called ERA-GLONASS.[25]

Singapore is seeking public opinions on introducing eSIM as a new standard, as more compatible devices enter the market.[26]

iSIM and nuSIM

In 2021, Deutsche Telekom introduced an alternative to eSIMs for smaller devices and the Internet of things in form of integrated SIMs (iSIMs) fully integrated into a security enclave of the modem SoC (System on Chip). Called nuSIM, they are smaller, cheaper and more eco-friendly since no extra hardware and plastic is required. In addition they can meet the same security requirements as a classical or eSIM; they ease the logistics and production of small devices. The projected adoption rate of iSIMs in mainstream consumer devices, including mobile phones. It can be expected that because of these advantages iSIMs will also replace the (e)SIMs in mobile phones and other connected consumer devices in the future. [27][28][29]

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

Disadvantages

References

  1. ^ Whitley, Alisha (2023-04-06). "Can I Use an eSIM and a Regular SIM at the Same Time?". Airalo.
  2. ^ Diana ben-Aaron (2010-11-18). "GSMA Explores Software-Based Replacement for Mobile SIM Cards". Bloomberg. p. 1. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ "eSIM Consumer Specifications". eSIM. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  4. ^ "eSIM for M2M". eSIM. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  5. ^ Vincent, James (2016-02-18). "Samsung's Gear S2 has the first certified eSIM that lets you choose carriers". The Verge. Vox Media, LLC. Retrieved 2021-05-10.
  6. ^ "Apple Watch Series 3 features built-in cellular and more". Apple Newsroom. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  7. ^ "iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max bring the best and biggest displays to iPhone". Apple Newsroom. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  8. ^ "Apple introduces iPhone XR". Apple Newsroom. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  9. ^ "New iPad Pro with all-screen design Is most advanced, powerful iPad ever". Apple Newsroom. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  10. ^ "iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max - Technical Specifications". Apple. Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  11. ^ "Google's Pixel 2 phones are the first to use built-in eSIM technology". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  12. ^ "Set up and manage eSIM - Google Fi Help". support.google.com. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  13. ^ "Google Pixel 3a hands-on: a cheaper Pixel with stunning camera". xda-developers. 2019-05-07. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  14. ^ Wiggers, Kyle (2019-05-07). "Google unveils the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL". VentureBeat.
  15. ^ "eSIM for Internet Of Things: A review". telecompaper. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  16. ^ "Use an eSIM to get a cellular data connection on your Windows 10 PC". Retrieved 2019-12-24.
  17. ^ Warren, Tom (2017-10-31). "Microsoft's Surface Pro with LTE launches on December 1st". The Verge. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  18. ^ "One UI 4 (Android 12) brings eSIM support to US Galaxy S21 devices". Android Central. 2021-11-16. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  19. ^ Nokia X30 5G Nokia
  20. ^ "eUICC – The Future for SIM Technology". PodM2M. 2019-08-29. Archived from the original on 2019-08-29.
  21. ^ "SGP.29 v1.0 EID Definition and Assignment Process". eSIM. Retrieved 2022-01-22.
  22. ^ "Clearing up the term "eSIM"". Hologram. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  23. ^ "EUICC vs eSIM: What is the difference between eSIM and eUICC?". 2019-03-05.
  24. ^ Ziegler, Chris (2012-06-01). "Embedded SIMs: they're happening, and Apple thinks they could be in consumer products". The Verge. Vox Media. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  25. ^ Bruno, Duarte (2014-09-27). "eUICC – embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card". Coswitched.com. Archived from the original on 2015-07-19. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  26. ^ "Switch mobile operator without changing SIM cards? IMDA wants feedback on eSIM tech". CNA. Archived from the original on 2019-11-20. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
  27. ^ "eSIM und nuSIM – was sind die Unterschiede? Telekom arbeitet an nuSIM". M2M-Kommunikation.de (in German). Portalavenue GmbH. Archived from the original on 2022-06-22. Retrieved 2022-06-22.
  28. ^ "nuSIM: Unsere innovative iSIM-Lösung" (in German). Deutsche Telekom. Archived from the original on 2022-06-22. Retrieved 2022-06-22.
  29. ^ Kunz, Daniel (2022-02-15) [2021]. "nuSIM – die integrierte SIM für das Internet der Dinge" (in German). Deutsche Telekom. Archived from the original on 2021-11-23. Retrieved 2022-06-22.
  30. ^ a b c d e f Emma Lunn (Forbes contributor) (2022-03-24). "A Guide To eSIMS". Forbes Advisor UK.