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GSMA Embedded SIM Standard Gains Momentum

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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More operators sign up for embedded SIM standard that could manage the Internet of Things (IoT) and make it easier to change networks

More operators have given their backing to mobile industry body the GSMA’s standard for an embedded SIM card.

A virtual SIM would replace physical SIM cards in smartphones, tablets and other electronics, powering M2M connected devices and making it easier for consumers and businesses to switch operator.

Traditional SIM cards were designed to be interchangeable, with this consideration defining their shape, size and layout. While they are currently successfully used in M2M devices, these pieces of plastic need to be replaced every time a device has to connect to a new network. With an embedded SIM, the network can be changed remotely.

Embedded SIM

Mobile phone roaming Europe SIM cards © 136240814 ShutterstockHowever for the promised benefits to become a reality, a single standard supported by multiple vendors and networks must be created. The GSMA has been working on its standard since late 2013 when it published a technical description and with the addition of Indosat, Tele2 and Telefonica, the total number of operators that have lent their support now stands at 23.

Eleven operators have launched commercial embedded SIMs and the GSMA believes 75 percent of all global M2M connections are now served by operators committed to the standard. The GSMA has also been in talks with major manufacturers like Samsung and Apple, the latter of which has included its Apple SIM in certain versions of the iPad since October 2014 – however only EE in the UK supported it at launch.

“It is clear that the industry is united behind this global standard which allows mobile operators to provide scalable, reliable and secure connectivity for a range of diverse services such as smart meters, traffic lights and home security, among many others,” said Alex Sinclair, acting Director General and CTO at the GSMA.

“With commercial solutions already available today, we encourage additional operators and ecosystem players to adopt the specification in order to capitalise on the tremendous market opportunity enabled by the IoT.”

However the GSMA does not expect virtual SIMs to replace physical ones. Indeed, it expects just 25 percent of all cellular additions by 2020 to have an embedded SIM.

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