What Apple’s eSIM-only Move Means For the Mobile Industry

Claus Dietze, Chair of the Board, Trusted Connectivity Alliance

Back in May 2022, the Trusted Connectivity Alliance announced that eSIM technology was entering a new era. Significant increases in eSIM profile activations signalled growing consumer awareness of the technology, making it only a matter of time before mainstream adoption was realised as the number of enabled smartphones grew. That time has now come with the announcement from Apple that its iPhone 14 range will be available in the U.S. as eSIM-only.

The decision by the world’s most valuable company to rely solely on eSIM for its flagship product is the strongest possible endorsement of the technology’s benefits, namely advanced security, seamless and flexible connectivity and full end-to-end digitalisation. And given Apple’s market-leading position, we can now expect other OEMs to follow suit.

For operators, the transformation of the smartphone industry promises opportunities and challenges. Some early-movers are already leveraging eSIM technology to support a fully digital experience that is reimagining the customer relationship, enabling simplified onboarding and activation and increased personalisation.

But for other operators, rapidly scaling towards an eSIM-first approach must now be a strategic priority in order to remain competitive.

Importantly, the connectivity industry is ready to support. Following years of extensive investment, recent growth in eSIM adoption has been enabled by an established global infrastructure that is now widely used by all major Tier 1 and Tier 2 operators.

More broadly, the ecosystem has progressed various eSIM standardisation initiatives that deliver the interoperability, trust and reliability that are integral to building consumer confidence in new technologies.

Looking further ahead, the ripple effects of Apple’s move will travel far beyond the smartphone market and into the vast IoT ecosystem.

Enterprises and organisations across the automotive, utilities, healthcare and agriculture sectors are leveraging the eSIM to enhance devices, launch new services, transform operations and maximise efficiencies. This is possible due to the technology’s flexibility, scalability and dynamic security, coupled with its robustness and smaller size. Consequently, we can anticipate accelerated adoption as smaller operators move to realise these new opportunities, creating a wider eSIM infrastructure that is ‘IoT ready’.

However, these emerging use-cases are presenting new interoperability challenges that must be addressed if the potential of the IoT is to be fully realised. In particular, the growing deployment of constrained IoT devices with limited bandwidth, power and user interfaces presents new considerations.

This means that as the eSIM ecosystem grows, broad industry engagement will be integral to solving these challenges. As an organisation that counts market-leading eSIM providers among our membership, TCA is focused on promoting eSIM interoperability across the ecosystem. Priorities include ongoing work to support the consistent remote loading of profiles onto eSIMs across deployed devices (regardless of the SIM vendor), working in close collaboration with GSMA to help guide the development of the new eSIM for IoT Technical Specifications, and positioning the eSIM as a hardware Root of Trust for the protection of IoT data. These initiatives are key to expanding the adoption and utility of eSIM technology, and support our ongoing mission to enable a trusted connected future.

For more information about TCA and to become a member, visit here.