Embedded universal integrated circuit cards (eUICCs) are gaining a lot of attention because of the flexibility and control they offer but, amidst the hype, there is a degree of overpromising going on about the technology’s capability today. In addition, there are distinct factors which are slowing development, for instance, the idea that eUICC enables devices to swap networks on the fly according to the best capacity available is not yet reality. So what’s standing in the way, asks Peter Dykes?
Conformity to standards is key to the wider adoption of eUICC according to some in the IoT industry. Emmanuel Routier, the vice president of verticals for IoT and analytics at Orange Business Services, says that as things stand, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) wanting to benefit from changing eUICC profiles can only do so at the beginning, or end of the contract – two use cases supported by Orange in IoT and that were tested intensively with other mobile network operators (MNOs) from the Global M2M Association. So at present, for a car manufacturer with eUICCs in its cars, using the standard implemented by Orange means they can only change profiles at the car delivery stage, or at the end of the contract.
“Today we’re not really able to change profiles on the fly, due to performance and technical constraints,” says Routier. “One important element that the telecoms industry needs to address to make eUICC a success, is to implement the standard specifications, particularly the latest releases. To be on top of these standards you need to engage actively at GSMA and the standardisation bodies level. Orange is currently working with the industry to actively develop the needed evolution in standards.”
“At Orange we are committed to complying with standards, to enable our customers to get the maximum flexibility,” he adds. “For example, we are currently in the process of implementing version 3.2 of the eUICC standard, which will enable a SIM profile change on heterogeneous architectures. Today, you need to make sure that all of the components from MNOs, SIM card manufacturers and management platform providers, are working together.”
The problem is compounded by the fact that MNOs are reluctant to make their subscription profile widely available. This is particularly important because the OEM manufacturers are increasingly being seen as a major driving force behind IoT adoption. In a recent white paper, Robin Duke-Woolley, an analyst and the chief executive of Beecham Research, wrote: “The big volumes of connected devices in the future will increasingly come from OEM-based applications. It is also increasingly the case that products originally designed for after-market applications are being adapted by their manufacturers to have integrated connectivity. It is this OEM-based category of applications that will be the real growth driver for IoT and it is therefore this category that the eUICC and eSIM solutions have primarily been designed for.”
However, for the OEMs to come on board, two things need to happen, according to Evan Whitelock, senior product marketing manager for Aeris. First, there is the need for more education on the real capabilities of eUICC solutions and second, MNOs need to make their profiles more widely available. He believes there is a hesitation on behalf of SIM buyers today because the benefits, potential and costs of eUICC SIMs are not clear. “In many cases, inexperienced IoT solution builders are not aware of eUICCs and their potential benefit,” he explains. “In other cases, the messaging in the marketplace has been slightly misleading and has caused confusion even for the more experienced IoT buyers. But as education continues to improve, and as IoT builders become more and more comfortable with eUICC SIMs, their potential benefits, and their actual value, we should see more traction over the next year.”
He adds that much of what is being discussed – from many different types of industry players – focuses more on the potential capabilities such as the value proposition of coverage optimisation which is often presented as a benefit of eUICC solution. And while technically eUICC solutions can enable a coverage optimisation solution, where the strongest coverage profile can be dynamically selected at any given time – the industry does not yet have participation from the MNOs to enable such a use case. “MNOs, largely, are still placing business restrictions around when/where/how their profiles can be used – preventing the coverage optimisation use case,” adds Whitelock. “Where we see the need to continue education is around the actual value propositions that eUICC solutions can deliver today. In order for eUICC technology to reach the full potential of delivering value, MNO carrier profiles need to be widely available for enterprises to use – with limited restrictions. eUICC technology is still very new, and MNOs have yet to actively participate in what I’ll call restriction-free eUICC solutions. MNOs are still looking to lock deployments onto their network, and eUICC solutions enable the mass migration of subscriptions off of their network – negatively impacting their net subscription reporting. It is difficult to predict exactly when the MNOs will begin to make their profiles widely available with limited restrictions; however, over the next two years we should start to see larger IoT deployments with buying power successfully negotiate profile control with some MNOs.”
Even so, Whitelock is not optimistic about things changing overnight. “We would classify the current eUICC development stage as nearlycomplete … from a technology standpoint. The technology, standards, platforms and others have all been created and specified and eUICC offerings are standardised in terms of the technology,” he says. “What are still works in progress are the business rules around MNO profiles within an eUICC solution. There is still a lot of progress needed on this front before eUICC SIMs become the sole SIM for IoT. But we should continue to see progress over the coming years as eUICC deployments and demand grow.”
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