How eSIMs are empowering enterprise IoT.

As wireless earphones became more ubiquitous, thanks to improvements in Bluetooth connections and cheaper audio devices, Apple did away with the audio jack in its iPhones, freeing up internal space for larger or additional components.

The new iPhone 14 is set to remove another feature, but this time, the removal is far more significant than just a response to consumer behaviour. In the US, the iPhone no longer comes with a SIM tray. Instead, Apple is using eSIMs – software that runs on an eUICC (Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card) chip.

This allows the users to choose whichever network and data package they want, including the ability to switch networks for travel where a local network deal will be kinder on their wallets. And thanks to the eSIM, travellers will no longer have to purchase a local SIM.

Now, over half of all phones in the US are iPhones, so the general public is about to become far more aware of eSIMs. But they’ve been around for quite some time. And while no longer having to find the special pin tool to open the SIM tray will be a ‘nice to have,’ eSIMs offer businesses – and the IoT (Internet of Things) in particular – far more significant benefits.

At Pod Group, as part of Giesecke+Devrient, the company that invented the SIM card and eSIM management, we have been using eSIMs since their inception. We work with enterprises running IoT systems requiring robust and reliable connections to communicate and send data. Furthermore, the connected devices are often vital to critical national and international infrastructures, such as energy-producing wind turbines or delivery and logistics networks.

In our world, one of the benefits of eSIM is its ability to switch between networks. Take wind turbines, for example. If a turbine were connected to a single network and it went down, the machine-to-machine (M2M) communication that enables maintenance schedules could no longer take place. This may result in less efficient energy production, prolonged downtime, and could even result in total failure.

Of course, single network connections are not standard, and even on physical SIM cards, multiple network connections have been possible for quite some time. As we’ve been running IoT networks since 1999, we made good use of Multi-IMSI SIMs (Multiple International Mobile Subscriber Identities), which also provide the ability to connect to multiple networks. In fact, this is still a big area for us since it can be used in combination with eSIM.

However, eSIMs are theoretically limitless in how many networks they may connect to. In contrast,
a multi-IMSI SIM has a limit to the number of networks it can provide and generally relies on roaming agreements instead of local connectivity. This makes the uptime guarantee of eSIM even more robust, especially when used along with Multi-IMSI, taking 99% to multiple decimals of reliable connectivity.

Better maintenance, which can be delivered as and when needed (as informed by the data being sent via networks on eSIMs) rather than via regular physical checks, reduces running costs. In turn, this makes wind energy cheaper – which, as we know, benefits everyone. Suddenly eSIMs seem a lot bigger than removing the hassle of finding the pin for a phone’s SIM tray.

Another benefit of eSIMs in enterprise IoT relates to the remote nature of many IoT-enabled systems. But, again, let us stick with the example of turbines. Wind farms are placed in remote locations, such as in the mountains or out at sea. Imagine needing to switch out the SIM in something so remote, tall, and inaccessible. It requires a lot of heavy lifting and, more importantly, cost.

eSIMs allow for this to happen remotely. This means an energy company could change IoT providers as easily as consumers change networks. Before, with standard carrier SIMs, the energy company would have had to factor in going to each turbine to swap out the SIM physically in order to optimise performance. Here again, using eSIMs reduces costs, which is a factor in why wind is one of the cheapest forms of energy.

This brings us to the latest cutting- edge technology for enterprises, driven by eSIMs and provided by Enterprise Network Operators (ENO). The introduction of the eSIM is accelerating the adoption of Private Networks for enterprise by enabling users to roam seamlessly between public and private infrastructure, which is essential given the now readily available supply of unlicensed spectrum. This has made ownership of cellular networks by enterprises possible via a single IP infrastructure and management platform.

An ENO is a new class of connectivity service provider in the IoT market. In short, an ENO is an enabler for the infrastructure and related services that enterprises need to own and control their IoT networks. Historically, enterprises would need to work with MNOs (Mobile Network Operator) or MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), but with an ENO, they retain full ownership over the network.

There are a lot of benefits that come with this. Through ENOs, enterprises have greater visibility of the status of their connected devices, more flexibility and control over the network configuration, quality of service (QoS) and security policies of their IoT network, and the ability to quickly scale globally and reduce connectivity costs.

eSIMs have played a pivotal role in enabling ENOs, thanks to their ability to connect to multiple networks via a single SKU (Stock Keeping Unit). Enterprises that operate globally and outside the bounds of a single carrier would otherwise have to contract and manage numerous different MNO relationships around the world, without the flexibility of being able to future-proof their network as market conditions such as pricing and coverage change.

Furthermore, by using eSIMs in combination with a private network, enterprises operating their own network can also chop and change the public networks they connect to, based on coverage or price and seamlessly manage their connections across both public and private networks.

So, while the average consumer may only be aware that there is no longer a SIM tray on their iPhone, this technology is making a massive and far more significant impact on the world of enterprise IoT.

Sam Colley

Pod Group.

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