New GSMA Standard for IoT Further Unlocks eSIM Potential

The market shift towards eSIMs is very real. The Trusted Connectivity Alliance (TCA) reported eSIM shipments increased 83% year-on-year to reach 309 million units in 2020. By 2025, the same report forecasts that eSIM shipments will surpass two billion units.

As remote SIM provisioning technology continues to mature, the connected ecosystem is constantly changing to deliver secure yet flexible connectivity. One of these updates is the new GSMA eSIM standard – SGP 0.32.

In May 2023, the GSMA released details of the new eSIM standard for IoT devices (SGP 0.32). We highlight some of the key details and how it will support the next wave of mass IoT deployments. 

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 The eSIM market has a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% from 2023 to 2032.
Remote eSIM Provisioning: A Brief History 

Over-The-Air (OTA) or Remote SIM provisioning with eSIMs was first introduced to the market in December 2012 by AT&T. This proprietary solution was a result of collaborations between AT&T with SIM card maker (EUM) G+D, unofficially called eSIM V1. It allowed users to swap their connectivity providers without replacing the SIM card.

Unlike its predecessor, the soft SIM, eSIMs V1 gained a solid foothold due to strong uptake within the automotive industry. Essentially, cars were becoming increasingly connected. But it was challenging for a removable SIM to withstand the harsh environment due to constant heat and vibrations. A global SIM that allowed seamless switching between different MNO profiles was also required as more connected vehicles were shipped around the world.

With rapid adoption, industry leaders, together with the GSMA, sought to standardise the process, resulting in two different standards. One intended for consumer devices with eSIM support (SGP 0.2) and the other for M2M devices (SGP 0.22).

The automotive industry motivated the widespread adoption of eSIMs
SGP 0.2 

The initial SIM provisioning specification was very MNO centric and driven by numerous Tier 1 MNOs. The MNOs retained 100 percent control over switching providers and profiles on the SIMs. Furthermore, adding new MNO profiles was a complex integration process which extended to SMS-C integrations as the basis of the M2M Specification of the eSIM SGP.02 standard. 

SGP 0.22 – M2M Specifications 

When connectivity started to move into consumer devices from industry behemoths such as Apple and Samsung, change quickly ensued. Giving consumers more control over swapping profiles on SIMs without getting MNOs involved. Apple first launched this capability on their iPad where consumers could select the carrier they wanted. This led to the GSMA publishing SGP 0.22 v1.0 in 2016. 

The big advantage of this standard is the eSIM can be downloaded from any GSMA SAS certified SM-DP+. Thus making it very easy to deploy and scale. 

SGP 0.22 remains the most popular eSIM standard used in most smartphones and watches
SGP 0.32 – IoT Specifications 

The latest specification published in May 2023 provides a simpler and more adequate deployment model for the mass IoT market.  However, the GSMA does not expect a fully compliant solution until late 2024. 

Why is there a need for the new eSIM IoT standard? 

Mainly due to limitations of the SGP 0.22. It simply does not cater to constrained IoT devices. The SGP 0.22 is also lengthy, complex, and expensive integration required to implement. Consequentially, the M2M standard technology overlooks key IoT use cases such as smart sensors, monitors and trackers that currently make up the bulk of large-scale deployments. Because of this, many M2M providers remained reliant on legacy technology with workarounds such as multi-IMSI. 

With SGP.32, the technical specification for the GSMA’s new eSIM IoT standard, will completely replace SGP 0.22. This means it will not be retroactively compatible and new IoT deployments and systems will be implemented with SGP 0.32. 

How does SGP 0.32 improve things? 

The biggest difference is the new standard requires zero integration. The new standard comes with the SM-DP+ architecture which assumes both SM-DP and SM-SR responsibilities. This removes any integration of the SM-SR with the MNO’s SM-DP while also offering enhanced security and integrity of the eSIM. Additionally, the SM-DP+ enables more lightweight protocols to activate devices. 

SGP 0.32 also offers management of a wider range of devices due to the eIM (eSIM IoT Remote Manager). This new architecture element enables the push control of bulk profiles to online devices. Together with SM-DP+, more lightweight protocols are available with the new standard. Devices can be easily activated, regardless of where they are deployed in the world.  

SGP.32 has been created to ease the rapid adoption of constrained IoT devices such as sensors in industry 4.0
Who will benefit from this new standard? 

Since the new standard requires no integration with MNOs, this means faster, more cost-effective and rapidly scalable implementations. MNOs will no longer need to restrict sales channels to a select few parties that it integrates with. 

Instead, solution providers will be able to manage their own IoT fleet by obtaining activation codes and access to profiles through the SM-DP+. This means MVNOs, MVNEs, and MVNAs can more readily serve the growing needs of enterprises across geographies and industry verticals. Solution providers will also have access to more services. For example, purchasing subscriptions from telcos overseas. 

Looking ahead 

In sum, the new IoT eSIM Specification (SGP.32) has been created to ease the rapid adoption of constrained IoT devices. These new standards together with the roll out of 5G NR REDCAP will create a huge uptake in eSIM adoption as the number of stakeholders, systems, and devices increase dramatically. This will also drive rapid innovation and evolution of the current eSIM ecosystem.

Fully harness these efforts by working with knowledgeable partners who demonstrate a willingness to offer reliable advice and support over the long-term. Helping you to define and deliver on vital organizational goals from implementation to completion, and beyond. 

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