Are we ready for an IoT paradigm shift? Are security needs, flexibility to address regional and regulatory challenges, and international globalization enough to encourage the IoT industry to accept embedded SIMs (eUICC), along with subscription management, to achieve reduced logistical and manufacturing costs with a single stock-keeping unit with a unique identification number (SKU)?
Shifting to a new technology always is a slow process if for no other reason but caution. The technology standardization and go-to-market approaches are yet evolving in parallel for interoperability. This requires preparing for the bigger picture by taking small steps with calculated risks, sincere effort, and commitment from multiple players.
Moving forward with subscription management
We now are in the third version of GSMA Removable SIMs standards. In the consumer market of smartphones/tablets, it even can be said that the industry now is moving toward the early adopter phase of the product life cycle. The IoT market still is in the innovator phase and needs more commitment from different actors across the industry. GSMA specifications clearly have defined the processes, systems, and interfaces for remotely managing eUICCs in a secure and standardized way — for downloading, enabling, disabling, and deleting subscriptions using Subscription Management–Secure Routing (SM-SR).
Subscription management has evolved significantly across different arenas, such as standard organizations, SIM suppliers, module vendors, operators, and connectivity platform providers. Now that the vision is understood, and the usefulness of the new platform is clear, it becomes easier for any one player to come out of their comfort zone and succeed in implementing the vision against any challenges that exist. The telematics industry seems to be taking a lead, with other verticals following up close behind.
With this ongoing adaptation and interoperability, mature applications can be designed to provide flexibility in operator selection on the basis of defined criteria and to hand control of the connectivity to users. The manufacturers can take advantage of new programmable SIMs and build generic devices, while providing the flexibility of MNO selection to customers.
Examples of IoT eUICC use cases:
- Insurance for Life: IoT devices for regulatory monitoring and the security vertical usually have long lifespans, so making use of an eUICC is perfect for these use cases. The use of an embedded SIM gives freedom to OEMs in relation to their mobile network operators (MNO) contracts, in addition to regional regulation or connectivity spectrum changes such as 2G/3G. OEMs who use an eUICC have independence from long-term ties to MNO contracts and changing market conditions. They can opt for new MNO/MVNOs with better coverage simply by replacing the subscription on the SIM remotely, without touching the device. This saves assembly time, field validation, and addresses challenges of reaching remote places, as well as eliminating the related costs of field visits. Thus, the devices that operate in remote and harsh environments have insurance if they adopt eUICC. This provides the device operator flexibility, with increased life expectancy and security, and enables the OEM to remove and update aging standards and technology.
- Global Product Launch: Using an eUICC provides an option to an OEM to enter global markets with a phased launch of a device. OEMs initially can use any bootstrap MNO profile, with a minimally viable product, to evaluate market interest. Later, on the basis of market validation and product demand, the OEM can switch the profile remotely to a local MNO and then scale up for ROI post-market validation. This approach allows individuals to secure the best service by area, while using local MNO/rates, meeting local regulatory requirements, and avoiding roaming costs as volume increases. This model fits particularly well with expensive heavy machinery, which moves from place to place, such as military equipment, construction vehicles, leased farming machinery, etc. The key advantage of an eUICC is giving the dealer/terminal provider the capability to switch from one MNO to another, without any constraints.
- Frequent Subscription Changes: In this approach, the user holds greater control and can actively switch from provider to provider and take advantage of region-specific pricing. Applications with high data usage, such as hotspots on a moving vehicle, can take advantage of eUICC flexibility to avoid roaming charges while increasing the availability of cellular networks. By managing subscriptions in near real time, OEMs will be able to lower connectivity costs while maximizing connectivity reliability for users. This use case may take a bit longer to commercialize in comparison to the first two.
Is it that simple?
The key to success in any of these above-mentioned use cases is understanding all the relevant parameters and dependencies, including MNO certification related to device modules, the technical know-how of the subscription management platform, and policy control for security via secure routing. My recommendation for successful migration to the eUICC platform is to assemble technical teams that understand MNO network coverage, the design of an eUICC deployment, and device module capabilities. There is a risk in adopting eUICC, which can be mitigated by overlapping deployment and effective application management with proper monitoring by technical experts, especially in the initial phase. This flexibility comes with increased complexity and, in order to address this, connectivity management providers need to lock arms with application providers, as well as with experts in the device capability field.
Guest post by Pratibha Sharma. This post originally appeared here.
Photo credit: Igor Ovsyannykov