In the realm of connectivity, the new GSMA eSIM IoT specification is generating anticipation among major industry players. We engaged in a discussion with Stephane Jayet, Head of Product Management within IDEMIA’s Digital Solutions Unit, to uncover vital insights—from the specification release to practical recommendations for optimizing cost and operational efficiency.
How does the new eSIM IoT specification (SGP.3x) coexist with the existing eSIM M2M specification (SGP.0x)?
The GSMA’s new specification wasn’t designed to put an end to the existing M2M specification; rather, it aims to provide a simpler and more suitable deployment model for the massive IoT market. This new specification builds upon the eSIM Consumer specification and investments made by numerous Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) globally to connect consumer devices with eSIM technology through SM-DP+ platforms. Ultimately, the market will dictate which use cases continue with the eSIM M2M architecture and which embrace the new eSIM IoT model.
Some industries and use cases will persist with the M2M specification, especially for devices already deployed and boasting a lengthy lifecycle in the field. For instance, vehicles or sensors, with a lifespan of approximately 20 years, have considerably longer contracts compared to consumer goods, like smartphones, which become obsolete after about 18 months. Consequently, MNOs and key stakeholders will continue investing in the existing SM-DP and SM-SR platforms to manage ongoing contracts.
However, a surge of new deployments using the M2M architecture is not anticipated. The majority of new projects are likely to center around the new eSIM IoT model. Presently, we observe actors across various industries, including transportation and energy, actively involved in standardization efforts, preparing to adopt the new eSIM IoT specification.
When will deployments relying on the new eSIM IoT specification happen?
The GSMA working group released the SGP.31 eSIM IoT Architecture and Requirements in April 2022, and the technical specification (SGP.32) was issued in July 2023. The complete set of specifications for tests and compliance is expected to be finalized by the end of 2024. All individuals involved in this project are committed to moving forward swiftly while ensuring that the new specification functions effectively with maximum security for all stakeholders. Meanwhile, MNOs, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and eSIM solution providers like IDEMIA can already commence preparations.
Are there any standardized eSIM IoT solutions currently available?
Given that the new specification set is not yet finalized, any solution currently available is likely to possess proprietary aspects—features that may not align with the final specification. At IDEMIA, we are channelling our efforts into collaborating with major MNOs and OEMs to deploy successful proof-of-concepts (PoCs). This approach enables us to test and learn, ensuring that all issues are addressed by the specifications and refined based on insights gained from live experiments. This also means that the final solution will be an iteration of our ongoing work. Since we’re building upon existing work, we will be prepared once the final specification is released.
How will OEMs and MNOs choose between the existing eSIM M2M and the new eSIM IoT specification for new deployments?
As mentioned, the majority of new eSIM IoT projects will adopt the new eSIM IoT specification. However, for specific use cases, certain industries may opt to stick with the M2M ecosystem. OEMs own the SM-SR, which holds a key pre-shared with the embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC), serving as a gateway to the eUICC. This implies that if you control the SM-SR, you control access to the eUICC. Consequently, in specific situations where OEMs need strong control over their devices, they will continue with the M2M specification. Nevertheless, for the vast majority of use cases, MNOs and OEMs can already begin planning to deploy eSIM solutions based on the new specification.
In many cases, MNOs will need to concurrently manage eSIM connectivity use cases for the consumer market, the existing M2M ecosystem, and/or the new eSIM IoT ecosystem.
How can IDEMIA’s eSIM solutions simplify the integration of the new specification and assist MNOs in managing multiple workflows simultaneously?
To provide context, it’s crucial to note that MNOs typically operate distinct back-end systems for their consumer and M2M/IoT businesses. To cater to the M2M/IoT market, MNOs have either established a dedicated M2M back-end to address the needs of their enterprise customers—or they utilize a third-party Connectivity Management Platform (CMP) for their M2M back-end. Currently, MNOs’ SM-DP+ is integrated with MNOs’ consumer back-end; in the future, it will need to integrate with their M2M back-end as well. This is where IDEMIA’s orchestration layer, Smart Connect Manager, becomes instrumental.
Could you elaborate on the benefits of the orchestration layer?
The orchestration layer provides a unified integration point for both M2M Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) platforms and Consumer RSP platforms, which will be utilized for new eSIM IoT use cases. In the existing M2M ecosystem, we had already established all the essential adapters to connect with CMP providers, such as Ericsson IoT Accelerator, Cisco Jasper, and Vodafone’s proprietary Global Data Service Platform.
Once the new specification is live, we will manage the integration process with these providers since we already have the adapters in place. This will enable any OEM to effortlessly connect to multiple CMPs, and any MNO to connect their own CMP to their SM-DP+. Due to our scale and ability to distribute costs among multiple players, we can connect smaller MNOs and OEMs that might lack significant financial resources. Simultaneously, it simplifies the process for CMP providers, as they won’t have to engage with each individual MNO and OEM.
Additionally, this intelligent orchestration layer automatically detects the underlying technology (eSIM IoT or eSIM M2M) and redirects orders to the relevant platform.
What are the specific advantages of the orchestration layer for the OEMs?
Besides connecting OEMs to multiple CMP platforms, our orchestration layer ensures comprehensive business process management, allowing OEMs to initiate various actions related to eSIM subscriptions and profiles management (enable, disable, delete, etc.) directed towards connectivity providers.
What other assistance can IDEMIA provide to help MNOs optimize cost and operational efficiency as the eSIM market scales up to cater to massive IoT services?
In practice, when an MNO orders profiles to sell to its customers, they lack knowledge about whether the enterprise customer will be in the existing M2M ecosystem or the new IoT ecosystem. They are also unaware of the type of eUICC the device will use or the device’s specific capabilities. This is where our just-in-time profile generation service comes into play. It supports every kind of device and eUICCs and has the ability to modify profile content or metadata on the fly. While this IDEMIA service is already in existence in the consumer market, it holds even greater significance in the IoT ecosystem, where the diversity of devices is exponentially larger. Without the ability to customize eSIM profiles at the last minute, MNOs would have to order profiles for each ecosystem and for each device with its own specific eUICC profile parameters—an expensive and time-consuming, if not impractical, task.
What should stakeholders do to prepare for the new specification?
MNOs will need to integrate their SM-DP+ platform with their M2M back-end system. They can manage this integration directly with their existing CMP partner or leverage the adapters already in place, with Cisco, Ericsson, and Vodafone, in IDEMIA’s orchestration layer. They will also need to ensure that their SM-DP+ platform, currently used to manage eSIM Consumer profiles, is upgraded to handle all the necessary metadata required to manage eSIM IoT profiles.
MNOs and OEMs should also commence end-to-end tests between their SM-DP+ and the eUICC and devices they intend to use in their eSIM IoT ecosystem. Not every device will behave the same way. This depends on its eUICC, whether the IPA (IoT Profile Assistant) will run on the eUICC or in the device module, whether the eUICC can directly connect with the SM-DP+ or whether the eIM will be used as an intermediary, etc. While this may appear to be a significant task, it’s already quite standard for IDEMIA. We are closely collaborating with module and device manufacturers, and we can support MNOs and OEMs to ensure that their eSIM solution seamlessly integrates with all IoT stakeholders.
A final recommendation?
I cannot emphasize enough that the success of MNOs and OEMs in the massive IoT market will hinge on the scalability and flexibility of their eSIM solution. Choosing a high-performance platform that can handle spikes in activity is critical. Cloud-based eSIM solutions are the ideal choice, as they provide the flexibility to rapidly enhance service capability during peaks and scale down when demand decreases.
In summary, MNOs should commence preparations for this new specification without delay. While the specification took slightly longer than anticipated, it will be finalized in the very near future. Those who proactively adopt a future-proof eSIM solution will undoubtedly reap the benefits once the final version is released.
(Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by IDEMIA)