Embedded SIM cards are a great thing for most people, no matter what the network carriers say.
There is a concern that soldering the SIM cards to the logic board opens up a world of network-locked hell for the average consumer. The other side of the coin is that consumers are now free to buy a device directly from the manufacturer. Sherry Zameer is head of telecommunications solutions for Africa and the Middle East at Gemalto, a digital security company and the world’s biggest SIM card manufacturer, and he is passionate about e-Sim.
“The SIM card itself, when you move it into devices, whether they’re IoT (internet of things) devices or M2M (machine to machine) sensors, which need connectivity, can be inserted at the point of manufacture,” Zameer explains. “From that perspective in order to manage the supply chain better and to have less stock keeping units, e-Sims have faster go-to-market and are able to be distributed internationally. (This) will open up new economies at the same time. The data, when it’s distributed, is (currently) embedded into the SIM card, but that can actually be done over the air. That’s really where the future is.”
The GSM Association has strict guidelines to help level the playing field and rule out the possibility of networks locking down devices. In the future the network carrier will be the custodian of your personal profile data, which you can then download directly onto a device and have your ecosystem unified. Your car, smartphone, tablet, watch and washing machine will all carry your profile data and you will, for a small fee, be able to connect to your network of choice as yourself, directly from the device.
The Samsung Gear S2 3G (which won’t be making it to our shores) is one such device. For all the smartwatch features like notifications and app consumption, it needs to be tethered to your phone via Bluetooth. But you can make and receive calls on the device, as long as your phone is on and connected to the same network.
Having your primary phone number on two devices seems intuitive, but causes a problem for our unprepared networks because they now have to support this new connection. Also, South African mobile communication regulations aren’t set up for cloned profiles. In the end, our country has some way to go before embracing e-Sims.
This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.