There’s no doubt that eSIM has been one of the most revolutionary technologies of recent times. Its ability to be provisioned over the air from anywhere – and on mass – means that device makers and network operators have the ability to have true flexibility, scalability and total control of their profiles – all while saving money, saving time and helping reduce plastic waste.
Initially introduced into the market for consumer-led devices (think iPhones and Apple Watches), there were use cases for applying eSIM technology – specifically remote SIM provisioning (RSP) – to the machine-to-machine (M2M) market. With the vast adoption and rise of IoT over the past several years, there has been a further demand to simplify RSP technology for the multitude of IoT use cases.
With all of these advancements in technologies, naturally comes standardisation and compliance. Enter, the GSMA and their latest eSIM IoT Technical Specification – SGP.32 V1.0.
What is SGP.32?
SGP.32 is the new eSIM IoT Technical Specification published in May 2023 by the GSMA (Working Group 7) to simplify the eSIM architecture for IoT use cases. Currently, there are two specs called M2M RSP and Consumer RSP. M2M RSP is used for IoT use cases where a profile is pushed to the device and Consumer RSP is used for consumer-type devices (as mentioned above) where a device will pull the profile from the RSP.
But M2M RSP has several drawbacks. For example, it mandates the use of SMS or HTTPS to deliver the MNO profile to the eUICC SIM card and this is prohibitive for power-constrained devices that use LPWAN radio access technology. There is also a complex integration needed between SMSR and SMDP that creates a technical and commercial barrier to entry for a lot of typical IoT applications.
The new SGP.32 standard in essence brings simplicity and better interoperability. It takes its roots from the existing SGP.22 Consumer RSP (SMDP+) standard but needs two additional elements; eIM (eSIM IoT Remote manager) and the IoT Profile Assistant (IPA).
The eIM can communicate with any device and SMDP+ so there is no need for pre-integration, and this in turn offers flexibility across the OEM manufacturing supply chain. It also supports more protocols such as CoAP/UDP/DTLS for LPWAN devices.
The IPA is simplified and can run on either the device (IPAd) or the eUICC eSIM (IPAe) allowing customers to control local profile switches much more easily. If IPA is part of the eUICC then the SIM vendor will be providing this as part of the eUICC.
What is the benefit of SGP.32 to resellers and OEM’s?
- SGP.32 aims to support mass-market IoT customer applications with its simple architecture
- Enabling sales channels – under the new standard, MNOs will no longer need to restrict sales channels to a select few parties that it integrates with, and MVNOs, MVNEs, and MVNAs will be able to more easily access profiles through the SM-DP+ to efficiently serve enterprises, geographies across all radio access technologies
What is the impact of SGP.32 on M2M RSP?
Although in the far future, M2M RSP will be phased out and retired, in the short to mid-term there is no real impact. Here’s why:
- Both M2M RSP and the new IoT RSP will co-exist. There has lot of investment done on the M2M RSP spec by service providers and device manufacturers and so this standard will stay for some time and will be used by Industrial IoT devices for the long term. For example, any IoT devices that are deployed for long term have a minimum period of 10 years of deployment.
- There is no migration path from a solution based on the M2M RSP to the IoT RSP (SGP.32). So, there will be reluctance in adoption of the new standards in the existing deployments. However new deployments will prefer the new standard and so we might see that providers are forced into adoption.
- Some standards are not fully defined, and this may not be done by the end of 2023 when the standards will be fully defined, and it will be only in the latter part of 2024 that we can have a solution available that is fully compliant with the new standard. However, once the fully compliant solutions are available by the latter part of 2024, all new deployments will be preferred to go on this new standard.
When will the new standard come into effect?
Although SGP.32 was published in May 2023, the GSMA has shared an expected timeline for the eSIM ecosystem to adopt the new model, with a fully compliant solution not expected until the latter part of 2024.