While the need for connection is primal, the means are quickly pacing towards the timeless principle — form follows function. The connectivity enabling SIM has shrunk from a size of a credit card in 1991 to pinky finger’s thumbnail-like nano-SIM in 2012. However, we still need two SIM cards to use two different numbers on our smartphones. Not for too long.
The new cellular innovation called eSIM is set to change how we experience and use multiple SIMs on our smartphones.
Traditional SIM cards tend to lose their function if your phone dunks into the water and receives severe damage. Also, if you lose the phone along with the SIM, the process of getting a new one is quite tedious. It’s equally cumbersome for the mobile operators too. That’s why smartphone makers and mobile operators are working together to bring a ubiquitous solution in the form of eSIM.
While it packs a lot of promise and an interesting future filled with convenience, let’s take a nosedive to know more about the eSIM.
What Is eSIM
The eSIM stands for electronic Subscriber Identity Module and aims to be the virtual equivalent of the physical SIM card. You can activate and subscribe to cellular services from more than one mobile operator without having to insert a new physical SIM in your particular device. A typical eSIM comes embedded on the motherboard or the circuit board of a phone or a smart device and it is a fraction size of a nano SIM.
That takes care of the biggest concern of the consumers - buying a dual SIM 4G smartphone and new SIM cards. That means you can enjoy the dual or multi-SIM experience on a smartphone and also change as well as manage them easily. Don't we all desire flagships that are powerful smartphones and offer protection against water and dust? So replacing the SIM card trays with eSIM is an excellent start.
In the future, the smartphones, tablets, computers, and other smart devices could use an eSIM to let you enjoy mobile and data services from multiple cellular providers easily.
How Does It Work
An eSIM which is short for an Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card comes with a Machine to Machine (M2M) installation and Remote Provisioning capabilities. In simpler terms, a manufacturer of smartphones or smart devices will solder it directly to the motherboard of the said device. With the remote provisioning facilities, the process of activating and managing the eSIM compatible devices becomes convenient. So you don't even have to visit a mobile operator’s store.
Let’s say you want to use a second 4G LTE connection on a 2018 iPhone since you don’t want to carry around another phone. All you have to do is get the subscription from the eSIM supporting mobile operator such as Airtel. The mobile operator will share a QR code or other details that includes activation code along with SM-DP+(Subscription Manager Data Preparation) server address and confirmation code.
Note: All 2018 iPhone models take Nano-SIM as the primary SIM by default, and the eSIM will be the secondary.
So when the other mobile operator activates your eSIM, then you can switch between your phone number profiles and other data services from your phone’s settings directly.
That is so convenient when traveling globally. Imagine going on a trip without worrying about buying a “Tourist” SIM card in a foreign country. Right from activation to the selection of the local network, everything would be possible by simply scanning a QR code or entering necessary data in the phone’s interface. That will help in quick switching as well as activation of local mobile operator’s services while your phone is on International Roaming.
eSIM Compatibility with Premium Devices
Thankfully, Indian telecom operators are swiftly adopting and rolling out the eSIM capabilities. Apple’s premium 2018 iPhone models, which includes iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, made a debut as one of the first phones to bring the eSIM support. That means the iPhone owners will get to use dual SIM functionality through a simple process applying and activation of the eSIM.
Airtel is one of the first players in India to initiate the eSIM activation for Apple’s 2018 iPhones. The Indian mobile operator is now extending the eSIM support to other phones starting with Google’s premium Pixel family which includes the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL.
Along with that, other mobile operators are also working to tender eSIM support for the said premium devices and more phones.
By 2020, you can expect the support for eSIM extending to a larger number of smartphones and a broader range of devices such as smart watches, health bands, tablets, laptops, portable health gadgets, and more.
Smart Automobiles powered by eSIM
While those smartphones and smart devices are in the pipeline, the automobile enthusiasts will be glad to witness the connected car experience first. Thanks to that, the eSIM support will power SUVs such as the Venue from Hyundai and Hector from MG Motors in India.
With the connected cars, the eSIM will equip a range of in-vehicle services such as navigation, emergency/panic buttons, infotainment, automobile health, breakdown services, telematics, and even diagnostics.
That will make so many things easier like making reservations at a restaurant, paying for the parking, or getting live traffic updates without pulling out your smartphone, plugging your headset and getting distracted in the process. It will be a truly smart and handsfree (voice-activated) experience delivering car.
Smart Devices Need the Best Network
While eSIM sounds fantastic in theory, the real advantage is enjoyable only through well-equipped and future-ready cellular networks. The eSIM requires specific secure applications that the mobile operator pushes over the network to the smartphones.
Of course, the mobile operators will employ complex encryption and other methods that will ensure that the said code runs securely. These apps or services could range from infotainment to capability for making mobile payments.
The customers from different pockets of the country will finally benefit from the seamless LTE connectivity thanks to pan India availability of the 4G LTE networks from several mobile operators such as Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone.
Beyond Smartphones and Calling
With the eSIM, the mobile operators are destined to going beyond supporting the bare minimum - Smartphones. The next generation of the Internet of Things will drive the growth of connected devices such as smart wearables as well as connected ecosystems like automobiles as well as smart homes and offices.
The basic idea is to enable seamless (no pun intended) connectivity of the smart gadgets with the help of reprogrammable software and without worrying about protecting and inserting a physical SIM card. So you no longer have to tether your phone’s connection to your smartwatch or health band for syncing your data. Those smart devices would be capable of doing that independently.