Developments in eSIM technology are taking place at a rapid pace as demand for hardware-based applications grow. A new generation of eSIM-ready smartphones support both a removable slot SIM card and eSIM (such as Apple’s ever popular iPhones), and the first eSIM-only smartphones are rumoured to go live in the second half of 2019. This will mark a true disruption for mobile operators in the way they envisage their relationship with consumers. At the same time, demand from the automotive market is also rising – with forecasts predicting that over 286 million connected cars will be sold worldwide over the next six years. And that’s before we’ve even mentioned the IoT and wearables market, which continues to thrive and expand into enterprise solutions like smart meters. In fact, the number of hardware-based eSIM-compliant devices in the world is predicted to reach almost 1.8 billion units by 2025, up from 364 million in 2018.
The booming demand shows that the industry’s understanding of the benefits of eSIM is continuing to mature. eSIM proliferation requires and accelerates the digital transformation of the entire mobile subscription management process – enabling quicker, easier mobile connections, more physical space from miniaturization, simplified logistics, cost reductions and new revenue streams.
With the sector in such strong shape, it’s truly an honour to be recognised by independent global industry analysis firm Counterpoint as the leading provider in both hardware-based eSIM and eSIM management solutions, in research that recognizes an elite subset of companies that offer best-of-breed eSIM technologies and solutions.
20 surveyed companies were classified in two categories (eSIM Enablement and eSIM Management) and were assessed based on eight criteria:
We’re very proud that Gemalto has been ranked in the first place in both the eSIM-enablement and eSIM-management categories.
Thales is the number 1 provider for hardware-based eSIM and eSIM management solutions.
(source: Counterpoint Research – July 2019)
A lot of work has been made to help us get to this point. Here are seven key tangible elements that helped us win the eSIM race.
Research & Development
We have the largest R&D teams for SIM and eSIM-related technologies, with particular core expertise in remote secure provisioning. In the field of mobile connectivity, this means designing, deploying and operating cutting edge eSIM solutions in order to digitalize and manage mobile subscription provisioning and activation, leveraging service platforms and tamper-proof chips.
Contributions to standards and interoperability
We’re the leading contributor to the eSIM standardization & interoperability. As part of the eSIM genesis process, we’ve led a big chunk of the contributions to GSMA’s “Remote Provisioning Architecture for Embedded UICC” specifications.
As the initiator and co-founder of the SIMalliance, we’ve been particularly involved in the eSIM interoperability, ensuring that different eSIM vendors’ eSIM profiles “speak” to different vendors’ eSIM management platforms and to different eSIM-compliant devices. For example, we’ve led contributions to an interoperable profile format definition, which allows any profile to be installed on any eUICC, independently of its manufacturer.
We’ve also been a key contributor to the recently specified GSMA IoT SAFE initiative for providing IoT security for eSIM and SIM.
Accredited sites for production and management
We have the largest number of GSMA security accredited sites for eSIM production and eSIM management, ten of which are accredited by independent auditing companies Chase Waterford and SRC GmbH. The GSMA’s Security Accreditation Scheme (SAS) enables mobile operators to assess the security of their UICC / SIM and eUICC / eSIM suppliers, as well as of their eUICC subscription management service providers.
A large, and growing, portfolio
We have the largest portfolio of eSIM solutions, and are the only company with full certification with live operation for all eSIM solutions:
- Subscription Manager Data Preparation (SM-DP),
- Subscription Manager Secure Routing (SM-SR),
- Subscription Manager Data Preparation for Consumer (SM-DP+),
- Subscription Manager (Root) Discovery Service (SM-DS)
- Data Centre Operation & Management (DCO&M)
In the increasingly crucial field of eSIM orchestration, we – together with Amdocs’s BSS expertise – intend to accompany mobile operators in their digital transformation of their mobile connectivity lifecycle management policy in order to fully enjoy eSIM benefits.
More recently, we announced the launch of a pioneering brand new technology aimed at bringing effortless initial connectivity to consumer eSIM-ready devices. Thales Instant Connect aims to remotely deliver mobile connectivity to eSIM-compliant devices at their first use, as they come unconnected by default, without the need of primary connectivity such as Bluetooth, WiFi or bootstrap.
Thales Instant Connect has received two awards in 2019 (Future Digital Awards by Juniper Research and IoT Global Award for Connected Health or Wearable Technology). It’s also been recently shortlisted for the Global Mobile Awards 2020 for the Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough.
A large roster of customers and partners
We have the largest eSIM customer and partner footprint, and have deployed more than 250 eSIM management platforms for mobile operators, MVNOs, operator alliances, automotive manufacturers and OEMs across all continents (e.g. AT&T, Huawei, Telefónica Group, Vodafone Group, Bridge Alliance, GigSky…). According to the SIM Alliance, a total of 230 eSIM management platforms were deployed globally by the end of 2018, meaning that we’ve provided two-thirds of the deployments worldwide.
Consequently, we have also been working with an increasing number of customers on all continents to design, produce and remotely download eSIM profiles.
In light of the evolution of the SIM delivery and value chain – from removable SIM to eSIM, to iSIM, we have set up close partnerships with leading companies in the mobile and chipset industries including Amdocs, Qualcomm and Microsoft.
Paving the way to iSIM
We are collaborating with the world’s leading mobile chipset manufacturer Qualcomm Technologies to develop iSIM (integrated SIM), thus bringing eSIM innovation into the Snapdragon Mobile PC Platform.
Technologically, one of the main challenges here is to ensure the same level of security and integrity in the iUICC as the eUICC. For example, in June 2019, Qualcomm’s Secure Processing Unit (aka SPU, an on-die secure element recently launched as part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform), received Common Criteria EAL-4+ security certification, the gold standard for smart card hardware security assurance and testing. This shows that we are committed to providing advanced built-in security to accelerate the adoption of eSIM-based mobile connectivity among a wide variety of consumer connected devices.
Building a chain of trust in 5G networks
With the launch of the first 5G handsets and offers in 2019, it was natural to launch the world’s first 5G SIM in order to unleash the potential of the next generation mobile networks. 5G SIM / 5G eSIM can now help operators addressing data protection regulation compliancy and increased network cyberattacks, thanks to providing subscriber identity privacy and trusted environment resilience.
It’s an honor and tremendous source of encouragement to receive this accolade, with Peter Richardson, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, noting: “Gemalto [is] leading the pack due to their diverse partnerships across the value chain, GSMA certifications, and end-to-end eSIM solutions.”
“This recognition rewards our vision to make eSIM accessible to the largest number of stakeholders in the mobile, consumer & industrial industries” said Emmanuel Unguran, Executive Vice President Mobile Connectivity Solutions at Thales. “It is also the public acknowledgement of the work of our teams involved in standardization, product management, innovation, operations and sales. I feel privileged to be working with and leading such fantastic teams.”
It’s paramount that OEMs, service providers and eSIM solution providers continue to work hand-in-hand to deploy a global, interoperable and fully-digitalized mobile subscription ecosystem to address the tremendous need of mobile connectivity for billions of IoT devices.
All these efforts and achievements have been recently further recognised: IoT Breakthrough, a leading market intelligence organization that recognizes the top companies, technologies and products in the global Internet of Things market, has named Thales the winner of the Global IoT Innovation Vendor of the Year award for 2020 for its global eSIM portfolio, and of the IoT Semiconductor of the Year award for 2021 for its Connected Embedded Secure Element.
- Thales wins the IoT Semiconductor of the Year award in 2021 in the 5th IoT Breakthrough awards
I’d be glad to get your comments and feedback. As a device maker or OEM/ODM, what’s your view here? Are there any other points you consider crucial for developing your business? Let us know by tweeting us at @ThalesDigiSec or leaving comment below.