Everything you need to know about iSIMs

Last updated: 10 February 2023

Integrated SIMs (iSIMs) are set to dominate the connectivity market over the coming years, and in fact, is set to be a big topic of discussion at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC).

There’s no shortage of information and news about iSIMs out there, but it can be overwhelming to sift through it all and get to the key facts. Whether you’re already in discussion about iSIMs and what they can do for your business, or you’re coming at them cold – in this blog we summarise the key facts and talking points thus far.

What exactly are iSIMs?

Put simply, the Integrated SIM (or iSIM) is the next generation of the SIM card integrated within the system-on-chip (SoC) of a smartphone, smart wearable or other device.

Who benefits from them?

Devices are now very complex, with a vast range of functions – just look at smartphones. All device makers, whether on the consumer market or IoT (Internet of Things) market, will benefit from iSIMs as it will allow you to have a simpler bill of materials

When such devices are sold in very large volumes, it’s always beneficial to design a single chip that will embed all the functionalities rather than using several discrete chips. This will not only be much cheaper than if you have to buy many chips, iSIMs will reduce power consumption and have a smaller footprint on the printed circuit board of your device.

iSIMs – how do they move on from eSIMs, and why do we need them?

The variety of devices that are being, and will be in the future, connected to cellular networks is increasing greatly. So, that brings new needs and the new requirements.

Connected devices are changing. Changing in terms of shape, and function. Devices are getting smaller, running on battery most of the time – requiring low power consumption. The integrated SIM is bringing these benefits.

Like an embedded SIM, an integrated SIM brings the same flexibility in terms of connectivity management. You can remotely change it and manage the connectivity for the connected device – an evolution in terms of form factor and performance over the eSIM – but the core value and the benefit of the eSIM will remain.

What impact does this have on the market?

iSIMs are set to have a huge impact on the market. Research suggests that by 2025, there could be 200 million iSIM-compliant consumer and IoT devices in use.

How does iSIM impact the consumer market?

One benefactor in the consumer market sector will be wearable devices. Wearable devices by their nature are small, with very little space inside to implement the connectivity features. So integrated SIM is a perfect fit there.

Because iSIMs simplify the integration or addition of this eSIM functionality inside the device, it could help optimise the costs for the entry and lower mid-range smartphone market.

How does iSIM impact the IOT market?

Low power networks that will allow more devices to connect easily to gather data and send data to the IoT application will present the biggest growth area for the IOT market.

Are there any examples of iSIM deployment?

We recently partnered with Vodafone and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. to demonstrate a working smartphone featuring iSIM (based on the ieUICC  GSMA specification). This milestone paves the way for commercialization of the technology, which could be rolled out in a host of new devices.

We delivered a proof-of-concept demo earlier this year, illustrating the technology’s commercial readiness and efficiency working on existing infrastructure, and leveraging Vodafone’s advanced network capabilities. In the demonstration, the fully operational proof of concept device used on Vodafone’s network was based on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G powered by a Snapdragon® 888 5G Mobile Platform, which features a built-in Qualcomm® Secure Processing Unit running the Thales iSIM operating system.

What does iSIM offer in terms of secure connectivity? Is it more secure than eSIM?

It offers the same level of security than eSIM – provided that it has achieved the GSMA certification.

What does the GSMA certification cover?

The GSMA certification covers three things. The first one is it ensures that the secure area of the SOC that will host the iSIM OS is as resistant to sophisticated attacks as the chips which are currently used for embedded chips.

Secondly, it ensures that the sensitive assets loaded by the OEM in their production facilities are also protected.

And the last thing covered by GSMA certification is to ensure that the iSIM is fully compliant with remote SIM provisioning standards, ensuring full interoperability with any remote SIM provisioning-compliant servers available in the market, namely the SM-DP+ servers.

In a nutshell, what are the top three benefits of iSIM technology?

More space inside the device – allowing you implement the cellular connectivity in much more device types then before.

Low power consumption – when you need to be very careful about power consumption of the whole device, an integrated SIM brings an advantage there.

Easier to handle for OEMs – device design, device validation, certification, and even manufacturing and logistics will be simpler.

If you’d like to hear more of an in-depth discussion on iSIM our experts recently caught up with the team at IOT Now for an interesting podcast. The episode can be found here.

For further reading about iSIMs check out the following:

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