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23 June 2023

A Tale of Two SIMs: e-SIM and i-SIM

e-SIM Card Packaging

e-SIMs and i-SIMs are the brand new SIM technologies changing the face of telecommunications. As well as changing how devices are manufactured, they are also changing the way that SIM cards are sold, packaged and used by consumers. Mobile devices, (such as watches, tablets, phones) that are connected over the Internet of Things currently via e-SIMs, are altering every aspect of telecommunications, as well as mobile device design, manufacturing and branding. 

 

If you would like to learn more about the e-SIM please follow this link to the article on the BPAK blog e-SIM: The Future of Telecommunications, this article will be focusing on the e-SIM and i-SIM and the differences between them as well as how they are changing the game of telecommunications with IoT.

 

Whistle Stop Tour

The first device to use an e-SIM was the Samsung Gear 2 S2 smartwatch back in 2016. Phones with e-SIM support (i.e a dual system where a physical SIM can be used but the device is also unlocked to be compatible with e-SIM operators). In 2021 Apple released the first e-SIM only version of the Iphone, (the Iphone 14) in the US – this meant that the phone was incompatible with traditional physical SIM cards and users could only activate the phone via a list of e-SIM operators. 

So how do e-SIMs and i-SIMs benefit not only brands and customers, but also the economic and environmental climates? They are theoretically cheaper, greener and easier to use…does that make them a profitable long term investment or a momentary fad that will fade out and become more of a con than a pro.

In this article we’re going to go through every aspect of the e-SIM, focusing on how they will impact the telecommunications sector and mobile device distribution.

 

Are They The Same Thing?

The main difference between an i-SIM and e-SIM is that an e-SIM is attached to the motherboard in a device, while the i-SIM is attached to the processor. An e-SIM is embedded into the device and holds the data of the carrier, their IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity). When Apple came up with the model of the e-SIM it was approved by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), a consortium of over 1,200 companies responsible for deciding how mobile phones work. The only real difference between an i-SIM and e-SIM is where it’s located, it doesn’t change anything for the end user; just for the manufacturers.

So, physically there is a difference between the i-SIM and e-SIM even if the end result is – on the face of it – completely the same for consumers. However there are a few differences in the technology of the i-SIM and e-SIM, starting with the fact that the i-SIM is more secure. This is due to the chip being based on Tamper Resistant Elements providing reliable end-to-end security and making it virtually impossible to tamper with. It also increases privacy and encryption on 5G data networks meaning that there is less of a security issue when connecting to public wifi accounts or using roaming on a device. The i-SIM is also due to outrun e-SIM growth in the next 5 years due to the chip being smaller, more powerful and integrated with the processor core using the SoC (System on a chip) encryption. This not only benefits a device’s power consumption but also leaves more space within the mechanics of the phone for other technologies that will boost the capabilities of the device.

 

Are There Any Problems?

Although the e-SIM has been rolled out and approved by GSMA, adopted by MVNO’s and implanted into devices on a mass market scale – there are still concerns about the i-SIM. The i-SIM is a very new technology, it has also not been tested completely so while it is forecasted to be better than the e-SIM in terms of security, device optimisation and usability; this is not a sure bet. The i-SIM has been approved by the GSMA as it sits under the e-SIM technology that was approved earlier and is already being invested in by MVNOs and manufacturers. While the i-SIM is still being tested it’s best to stay in the e-SIM market and onboard that into your MVNO brand.

 

Where Do You Go From Here?

There are fears that the MVNO market will become even more competitive as other players begin to step into the market, not having to contend with the overheads that traditional operators have had. Revenues are already down from traditional profits made by SMS and voice services. As the technology for network operators becomes more invisible, and the sales form of companies becomes more online – there is a temptation to move the MVNO brands and SIMs into complete online transactions which don’t require anything physical. However, no matter how invisible SIM cards become, there is still a need to provide physical options for customers to connect to these new and established networks. That’s where packaging is still – more than ever – a necessary sales tactic in securing new and returning customers. Especially as the new technology brings an even more competitive landscape.

 

If you would like to find out more about the packaging solutions for e-SIM packaging please get in touch with the BPAK team at info@bpak.com