The GSMA has issued a new specification allowing consumers to remotely activate an embedded SIM in the likes of smartwatches, fitness bands or tablets.
The specification is the first from the trade body's Consumer Remote SIM Provisioning initiative, which is backed by operators including Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefónica, chipset makers such as Qualcomm, and device manufacturers including Apple and Samsung.
The GSMA said the move is not the first step on the way to axing removable SIM cards. It said the specification will help users connect a range of different devices through the same subscription, as well as aid manufacturers in building smaller and lighter wearable devices.
Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer, GSMA, said: “This is the only interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry and lets consumers with a mobile subscription remotely connect their devices to a mobile network. This new specification gives consumers the freedom to remotely connect devices, such as wearables, to a mobile network of their choice and continues to evolve the process of connecting new and innovative devices.”
Ovum analyst Dario Talmesio said: "Consumer versions of reprogrammable, traditional, or “virtual” SIM cards have been carried out for some years now, mainly by device manufacturers such as Apple. Undoubtedly, these activities acted a catalyst for mobile operators to get their act together and collectively embrace SIM-related innovation which, in the short term, will provide business benefits in the form of incremental connections for new device types."
Yesterday, the non-consumer version of the specification was boosted when the Bridge Alliance and the Global M2M Associations, two operator bodies that cover 77 markets between them, agreed to jointly provide a Multi-Domestic Service connectivity platform for the Internet of Things.
The agreement is hoped to broaden the reach of remote provisioning of eUICC SIMs, which will be used to power IoT networks.
Talmesio added; "Although eSIM for consumers and eSIM for M2M are very similar from a technical point of view, the business process is in fact turned on its head. eSIM for consumer will require end users to make a conscious decision to activate a new contract (or prepaid connection) which is completely distinct from the existing contract they might already have with their existing telecommunications provider.
"In the long term, reprogrammable eSIMs will be featured in smartphones, making it easier for consumers to switch providers. Device manufacturers can help in the process with potentially disruptive ramifications."