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One SIM, many networks – IoT connectivity evolves

Mobile network operators will do almost anything to keep their customers, as evidenced by the ongoing price wars and promotions that consumers enjoy. But what will happen as more of those customers become “things” instead of people? Most machines will not be able to choose how they connect to the Internet, and the people who choose for them will want the same flexibility for their connected machines that they have for their smartphones.

IoT chip manufacturers understand this, and so does the mobile industry trade group GSMA. Sierra Wireless is one of the first chipmakers to launch a SIM card that conforms to the GSMA embedded SIM specification. It’s called an embedded universal integrated circuit card, or eUICC, and it allows businesses to change service providers without swapping a SIM card.

“eUICC represents the most radical change in over two decades of GSM connectivity, because it allows customers to select and change service provider profiles based on the criteria or business rules of their choosing,” said Andrew Brown, executive director for enterprise and IoT research at Strategy Analytics. “This allows businesses to think globally and expand their offerings from products to connected services.”

Embedded SIM cards are not removable and they are provisioned remotely. Remote SIM provisioning means that a SIM card ships with a so-called “bootstrap profile” instead of an operator profile. According to GSMA, a bootstrap profile enables the chip to connect to a mobile network when an IoT devices is turned on. An operator can then provision the chip with its preferred SIM vendor’s profile, which overrides the bootstrap profile. If the business that owns the IoT device decides to change service providers, the new operator can provision the device with a new profile from a new SIM card provider.

Machina Research estimates that within eight years, IoT SIMs supporting eUICC will represent half the global SIM card market. eUICCs, also called eSIMS, enable manufacturers to ship uniform products which can then be connected to different service provider networks in the field.

“Our vision is to remove barriers for customers by taking the complexity out of connectivity thereby enabling the possibility of countless new business models and applications,” said Emmanuel Walckenaer, senior vice president of Sierra Wireless’s cloud and connectivity services business unit.

As a developer of IoT modules, Sierra Wireless is one of the companies that brings IoT modems into the marketplace. Companies like Sequans, Qualcomm and Sony’s Altair partner with module makers like Sierra Wireless, Gemalto and U-Blox to create IoT solutions for wireless carriers. But future IoT solutions for cellular networks will not always be carrier-specific, as evidenced by Sierra Wireless’s eUICC announcement.

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