In this blog, I am joined by my colleagues Pascal Di Girolamo, [Marketing Director] and Antoine Thomas [Head of eSIM solutions], to discuss the fast-growing adoption of the eSIM (embedded SIM) and the role of public clouds in enabling efficient and scalable remote subscription management of consumer and IoT devices, and the right strategies for ensuring privacy and security in an era when billions more subscribers and devices are permanently connected to cellular networks.
How significant is the ramp-up of eSIM to the mobile connectivity market?
Didier Benkoël-Adechy (DB): The massive ramp-up of eSIM capable devices is already fueling digital transformation throughout the mobile connectivity market. For example, Eurosmart reports that 200 million eSIMs were shipped worldwide in 2019, and more than 200 MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) are already equipped to support eSIM capable devices. And this is just the starting point. By 2023, ABI Research estimates that 0.9 billion eSIM capable devices will be shipped annually.
Pascal Di Girolamo (PDG): Last year, more than five billion SIM cards were produced and shipped worldwide. In the years to come, we anticipate that this will transform into five billion activations for eSIM capable devices. The sheer scale of this change implies the need for robust platforms such as public clouds.
Why are public clouds ideally suited for addressing stellar growth in eSIM capable devices?
Antoine Thomas (AT): Public cloud technology, supported by a public cloud provider, allows massive volumes and seasonal peaks to be addressed with a high degree of flexibility. A public cloud is also optimised in terms of resources and costs, which makes it ideally suited to address the challenges ahead.
PDG: What’s more, public cloud providers offer the advantages of enhanced geo-diversity. As we highlighted in our recent press release, the Google Cloud Platform was chosen to host Thales’ eSIM Subscription Management solution. Available in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe, the use of Google Cloud means customers can benefit from an unrivalled footprint in terms of the localisation of data required by regulations, and assured disaster recovery and business continuity for sensitive services.
AT: It’s important to see the bigger picture too. Instead of using their own private data centers, many MNOs are moving to public cloud environments to optimise their network costs and operations. Doing the same for eSIM subscription management fits perfectly with this wider strategy and will encourage further adoption of public cloud technology in the future.
Beyond eSIM activation, do you see further benefits in using public clouds?
DB: Absolutely! We can certainly take advantage of the local presence of public cloud providers to host services which relate to end user data storage and management. These definitely need to be local.
In particular, with the digital transformation of telecoms, MNOs are looking to digitize the enrollment process by capturing and verifying ID documents and biometrics. Once this is done, MNOs can aggregate all the verified data they hold and create trusted digital identities for end users using static attributes, such as demographics and biometrics.
PDG: In addition, MNOs can securely store and manage locally a vast amount of intelligence on their customers. With the help of AI and analytics, this information can be used to greatly improve an MNO’s marketing insight. Products can be tailored to local needs, for example. By gathering dynamic attributes from multiple data points, including eSIM/network usage, geolocation, browsing patterns and surrounding signals like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. ID intelligence data can also be used to further authenticate customers to detect abnormal service usage.
DB: In fact, in addition to mobile subscriptions, the public cloud can host a wide array of value-added services related to user data. In any cases, those services imply user consent and are regulated.
But what about security and compliance with privacy regulations?
AT: To provide robust compliance with data protection and privacy requirements, GSMA certification is key in any environment in which an eSIM subscription management platform is being operated. That’s true for both public and private clouds.
Reflecting this, back in February 2020 we deployed the world’s first GSMA-certified eSIM activation solution on a public cloud. Beyond that, we should stress that Thales routinely adapts solutions to individual customer requirements in terms of privacy and offers both public and private cloud services.
Is the relevance of public clouds limited to consumer eSIM capable devices? What about the IoT?
DB: As with eSIM-capable consumer devices, scalable security is essential for sustainable growth in IoT. In fact, it’s even more critical for the IoT, where the volume of connected objects may well be several times greater than in the consumer domain. In an IoT market that is inherently fragmented, eSIM technology offers the prospect of security that is both scalable and standardized. Indeed, the rapid development of the IoT is now supported by a standardized, GSMA-defined security framework – GSMA IoT SAFE.
PDG: Yes, with its inherent ability to scale, cloud technology in a GSMA-certified framework can also enable huge growth in cellular connectivity for the IoT. When you add the public aspect that again brings in the benefits of geodiversity that we mentioned earlier: local presence and business continuity. It’s also worth flagging the fact that 5G networks represent another huge asset to support the growth of eSIM capable devices.
DB: And there are other important additional services that can be hosted in a public cloud. For instance, new GSMA-led certifications such as Radio Policy Management, enabling important new applications. These include the optimisation of network performance when managing a large number of connected objects, ensuring that devices operating in error or behaving abnormally do not drain precious resources.
PDG: Here’s another proposal: the public cloud could be an environment where a connected object stores its own trusted digital identity, used to enable secure and seamless enrollment and link with its owner. Thales’ eSIM management solutions, are ideally suited to this role, allowing to pair up users with their objects.
If you found this discussion on eSIM and public cloud interesting, you can continue reading more on the topic here.