Ericsson sees eSIM changing the game for global IoT

Ericsson sees eSIM changing the game for global IoT

In 2019 Ericsson said it planned to double-down on IoT. Fast forward, and in 2020 Ericsson’s IoT business outgrew the market by 3 times, with a global IoT Accelerator platform that has a dedicated core but localises to integrate with service provider networks.

Last year the number of devices managed on Ericsson’s IoT Accelerator platform doubled to more than 70 million, including more than 8 million eSIM devices, according to Ericsson’s Warren Chaisatien, global director of IoT Customer Success Marketing.

In a Q&A with Fierce, Chaisatien said IoT absolutely continues to be a key strategic growth area for the Swedish vendor, even if it may not be the most visible part of the business.

“We’re the most global and reliable IoT network that enterprises rely on, but hardly hear about because we provide it through our CSP partners,” he noted via email.

Ericsson now serves more than 6,500 enterprises through its network of 35-plus CSP partners globally, which include the likes of Orange, Telstra, and others.

“We have continuously invested to enhance our IoT Accelerator platform capabilities, such as eSIM and now we are the industry leader,” Chaisatien said.

eSIM stands for embedded-SIM. It essentially is a digital replacement for a physical SIM (subscriber identity module), meaning SIMs don’t need to be manually switched out and can be provisioned remotely. The GSMA-certified eSIM standard also has enhanced security built-in, an important feature for enterprise users.  

On Wednesday, the Trusted Connectivity Alliance (TCA) published market monitoring data showing major eSIM growth in 2020. TCA members’ collective eSIM shipments soared 83% year over year to 309 million units. Uptake also grew, with the number of times an MNO profile was downloaded to a device via eSIM jumping 300% last year.

The group attributed increases in eSIM shipments to the continued launch of new eSIM-enabled handsets, IoT devices and smart watches, along with initiatives supporting the increase of eSIM deployment for automotive applications.

Chaisatien believes eSIM can help add to value creation for both Ericsson, its operator partners, and enterprises.  

“Global IoT connectivity starts with having a global SIM. eSIM is really changing the global connectivity game since it overcomes challenges enterprises have faced in the past, including high costs of roaming and regulatory constraints around permanent roaming of IoT devices.”

Enterprise eSIM less scary for operators

eSIM technology historically has been met with less enthusiasm from operators when it comes to consumers but the idea appears less scary for those with global enterprise customers.

For devices like smartphones, some of the carrier hesitation is that it makes it easier for customers to switch to a different network. Some smaller and prepaid brands have been more eager to adopt, including Verizon-backed Visible which just launched eSIM support in February.

Chaisatien noted that consumers still account for most of operator revenue, and that ability to easily churn is part of the concern.

“However, the trend towards eSIM in the consumer market is picking up pace, driven by device and smartphone manufacturers,” he said.

But when it comes to IoT and enterprise, operators are much less hesitant to embrace eSIM, according to Chaisatien.  

“For most Communication Service Providers (CSPs), enterprise and IoT business is a new type of business, so they really have no churn to worry about,” he said. “Another reason is that churn for large deployments wouldn’t be a simple thing to do for enterprises.”

Also keep in mind IoT devices tend to have long life cycles, usually connected for around 10 years – compared to consumer handsets that change much more frequently.  

Chaisatien said that Ericsson’s seen its IoT Accelerator CSP partners “go full speed when enterprises demand eSIM.”

eSIM benefits for enterprise, OEMs

In case anyone needs reminding, 2020 saw the world hit with the global Covid pandemic, and for many industries that meant significant changes to business as usual.

Fierce asked Chaisatien how the role of eSIM plays into operational shifts companies have had to deal with since the start of the pandemic.

“eSIM is playing a critical role in enterprise IoT deployments during the pandemic because it provides “zero touch” activation and localisation of connected assets. The pandemic has greatly limited the enterprise workforce and field force movements around the world and since eSIM does not require technicians to physically insert and/or change physical SIM cards, it has really facilitated enterprise IoT deployments.”

And after the pandemic, he expects these trends to stick around long-term because of benefits eSIM delivers to both enterprises and “move-by-device” manufacturers.

When it comes to global enterprise IoT deployments, two eSIM benefits Chaisatien called out are device activation and operational convenience.  

“For device manufacturers, the biggest benefit of eSIM is that it simplifies their production and distribution processes tremendously,” he said. “They no longer have to worry about sticking the right SIMs from the right CSPs into the right devices and ship them to the right countries. In other words, eSIM allows for a single product SKU, massively simplifying supply chain management for device manufacturers.”

As for enterprise pain points?

“For enterprises rolling out connected devices, the first benefit of eSIM is ease of device activation – connectivity straight out of the box and automatic bootstrapping. The flexibility to choose and switch operators is another obvious benefit, especially for enterprises with large numbers of devices deployed in disparate locations,” he said.

“Seamlessly switching operators is particularly handy for moving assets like cars crossing from one country to another,” he added.

Ericsson currently has over 15 million vehicles on its IoT accelerator platform.

eSIM and ‘micro-mobility’

Connected cars and trucks are one thing, but another segment Ericsson has dipped its toe in involves the “micro-mobility” trend, which Chaisatien says is growing thanks to more consumer awareness about green energy and efficiency.

Think connected bikes, scooters and mopeds. More and more are joining the ranks and are the main lightweight vehicles in the micro-mobility market using eSIM, he noted, for many of the same reasons cited above

“eSIM in micro-mobility vehicles is a new market for us and we expect it to grow over time,” he said.

One of Ericsson’s recent forays include a partnership announced in January with U.K.-based Arkessa to provide global cellular IoT connectivity and eSIM solutions Voi’s e-scooter fleets for micro-mobility in urban areas. Voi can activate and manage its global fleet, regardless of location.