Industry backs eSIMs but needs to learn the benefits of iSIM deployment, says Arm survey

The top three obstacles to large commercial eSIM deployments are resistance from traditional stakeholders (69%), complexity to deliver eSIMs (40%) and lock-in concerns (40%). These are among the key findings of a new survey by Arm, according to Vincent Korstanje, the company’s vice president and general manager of Emerging Businesses.

The survey also showed that 90% of respondents are aware of eSIM, however education is needed to grow the industry’s understanding of iSIM, with 43% unaware of the technology. And only 44% of those surveyed believe iSIM is as secure as a traditional SIM.

As we drive towards our vision of a trillion connected devices by 2035, says Arm, one of the most critical steps towards enabling Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity is the evolution of the underlying SIM (subscriber identity module) technology. The evolution primarily involves embedded SIM (eSIM) and integrated SIM (iSIM) systems for authenticating users on existing and future 5G mobile networks.

According to the survey of 650 industry stakeholders* undertaken for processor design and technology company Arm, it is clear that the industry is well aware of the importance of deploying advanced SIM technologies.

A total of 67% view eSIM technology as a positive development and more than 80% agree it will overtake traditional SIMs. However, the industry still needs further education on the benefits that iSIM technology will deliver.

Understanding the advantages of iSIM technology

The evolution of SIM technology is crucial to ensuring secure identity can be built into any cellular IoT device, but iSIM expands integration of secure identity into even more devices ranging from smart meters to connected cars. In addition to the secure ID benefits, iSIM will also lower device costs in areas such as SIM handling. In fact, more than half (53%) of respondents believe integration of iSIM will result in lower device costs.

However, the industry still requires a broader understanding of iSIM security advantages, as only 44% of those surveyed believe iSIM is as secure as a traditional SIM. In fact, iSIM is as secure as eSIM and can offer the same level of protection of the network credentials. To help decision-makers better understand the security benefits of iSIM, Arm is working closely with standards bodies, such as the GSMA, to educate the industry and work towards a more unified approach to iSIM.

Turning awareness into adoption

When asked about the main obstacles to large eSIM deployments, feedback from respondents already aware of eSIM was as follows:

  • 69% of respondents cited resistance from traditional stakeholders
  • 40% noted lock-in concerns
  • 40% mentioned complexity to deliver

This resistance may be linked to a desire to capitalise on existing solutions and investment, but Arm believes this resistance will diminish, particularly as GSMA and other standards bodies are playing an active role accelerating the evolution of SIM technologies. And based on my own conversations with decision-makers, I expect those resistance numbers will rapidly diminish as more of them experience the flexibility eSIM and iSIM offer across the entire connected device value chain.

Acceptance will soon become more pervasive among traditional stakeholders unable to ignore the innovation, new business models and fresh opportunities enabled by eSIM and iSIM technologies as billions of IoT devices are deployed. An example this, says Arm, is its recently announced partnership with Vodafone to combine iSIM, IoT software and network services with an aim to reduce complexity and enable standards-compliant remote provisioning of any IoT devices.

While this latest industry data shows there are still some challenges in terms of education, particularly around security, the data is an overall positive indicator of increased awareness, acceptance and adoption of eSIM and iSIM technologies. In recent years, Arm has been taking steps to help the industry understand that security can no longer be an afterthought and we have a shared responsibility for ensuring security is not made optional. This is why Arm invested in developing the widely accepted Platform Security Architecture (PSA) framework which has provided the industry with a standardised approach for designing secure connected devices.

*In all, 650 industry representatives (MNOs, chipset/module makers, OEMs, IoT service providers, enterprises, consultants and SIM vendors) were surveyed between April and May 2019 about their views on eSIM and iSIM technologies.

Details on Arm Kigen, the company’s GSMA-compliant SIM solution delivering eSIM and iSIM functionality, remote management and high security for cellular IoT can be found here.

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