Before we begin to elaborate on the topic of what an eSIM is, it might look reasonable first to understand what a SIM is. A SIM or Subscriber Identity Module is a tiny chip that contains the necessary information to authenticate your identity to a network carrier. It’s like a gate pass entering network infrastructure (cell towers). eSIM on the other hand, as the name suggests, is an electronic or embedded SIM.
Introduction to eSIM technology
eSIM appears to be a much smarter technology for most devices, including, Smartphones and Tablet devices. This article looks at the move from Physical SIM card to the digital world of remote SIM provisioning.
Before understanding how an eSIM works, let us see how most SIM cards work today.
Consider a consumer who wants to connect his mobile device like a Smartphone or a tablet. They first set up a contract with their favorite mobile network provider. In this case, the RED operator as seen in the image below. In return, the consumer receives a SIM card. The red dot on the SIM indicates the data of the Red operator stored on it. When this sim is connected to the device, it connects to the network of the red operator.
Suppose, at the end of the contract, the consumer wishes to change to another provider. To do this, he must set up a new contract with a new provider. In this case, the blue operator and he shall receive a SIM card from that provider in due course. This Sim shows a blue dot to indicate the data stored on it. At this time, the consumer’s device is still connected to the red operator’s network.
To connect to the blue operator’s network, the consumer must physically swap SIMs. If the original SIM is not required, it can be returned to the operator or destroyed.
Now, let’s take a look at how things would change if a consumer decides to move from physical to digital i.e., Remote SIM provisioning.
The consumer has a mobile device they wish to connect to a network. This device unlike, other devices contain an embedded or electronic SIM. If you look at the eSIM inside, it shows some data slots.
To get connected, a consumer sets up a contract with their favorite data provider – Red operator in this case. Here, instead of providing a Sim, the Red operator provides an activation code, typically in the form of a QR code.
When the consumer scans this activation code, using their mobile device, details about the subscription is retrieved. If verified by the consumer, the subscription is downloaded to the embedded SIM. Later he needs to activate it to start using the SIM. Once activated, it connects to the operator’s network.
If a consumer wishes to change the service provider, he sets up a contract with it (blue operator). Like earlier, the new provider provides an activation code, and he has to follow the same procedure as described above.
The download of the new subscription takes place in one of the free slots on the embedded SIM.
Even after this, the original subscription remains active. The consumer is prompted if he wished to switch to a new subscription. If agreed, he can switch to the new subscription readily and delete the original subscription.
Why are eSIMs becoming so popular?
With the recent advancement in technology such as machine to machine (M2M) communications, it has become possible to connect all kinds of devices from energy meters to cars. As such, the limitations of the SIM has become apparent, and eSIMs are picking up in the race. There’s lower the risk of device theft!
Besides this, eSIM technology makes it much easier to switch carriers. For example, rather than ordering a new SIM and waiting around for it to arrive, you can switch to a new carrier straight from your phone. Also, if you’re a dual-SIM user, eSIM technology supports multiple accounts and switching between them is super easy.
Lastly, it frees up some space, so there’s more room available to accommodate larger batteries and thus, additional battery life. If you more information to share with us, write them in the comments section below.
Image credits: gsma.com.