Implementing eSIM for IoT: All You Need to Know

by Jones David

Connectivity remains one of the key challenges in any IoT deployment, and out of all the IoT connectivity options we have today from Wi-Fi to NP-WAN to various mesh network configurations, cellular IoT connectivity remains the best choice when thinking about scalability and global connectivity.

The cellular network is a proven technology that at the moment covers most of the populated regions all over the world.

However, the real implementation of global connectivity via cellular networks used to have a pretty significant challenge in the form of the limitations of the SIM card: we need to remove and replace the physical SIM card anytime we’re switching between different networks in different locations and countries.

Imagine replacing the physical SIM cards on thousands of remotely deployed sensors in an IoT network, and we can easily see that the traditional SIM card is no longer a practical solution for IoT connectivity. The good news is, with the arrival of eSIM for IoT, we can now tackle these issues.

What Is eSIM?

To answer this question, we must first briefly discuss the concept of the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) technology.

The SIM has the main purpose of securely storing the owner’s identity via IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) and related keys so that the network provider can identify and authenticate subscribers on their devices.

Traditionally, SIM comes in the form of a physical SIM card (including micro/nano-SIM cards) and can only provide a single identity profile with its built-in 64KB to 128KB of memory. When you want to switch carriers, albeit with very few exceptions, you have to replace the SIM card.

eSIM stands for Embedded SIM, and is a global specification by the GSMA with two main characteristics:

  1. As the name ‘embedded’ suggests, the eSIM is now no longer a physical card, but rather is a very small chip that is integrated/embedded into the device
  2. It enables remote SIM provisioning of any device with an eSIM

So, with an eSIM, a device can store multiple operator profiles on a device and even downloads a brand new one to switch between them remotely as needed. For example, in an IoT deployment, we can now remotely select a new network operator for a device deployed in a different country by securely downloading the network operator’s SIM application. We no longer need to replace the physical SIM card in this respective device.

eSIM for IoT simply opens up new opportunities for different use cases and implementations. For example, in automated vehicles and even smart cars with IoT technologies, we can now easily switch between mobile operators as these vehicles move between borders. This allows these vehicles to stay connected to provide a variety of services to the vehicle owners and/or users like GPS navigation, entertainment, and diagnostics, among others.

Simply put, eSIM for IoT provides more versatility in connectivity options, which can provide various benefits to the device manufacturers, service providers, IoT network owners, and users, as we will discuss below.

Benefits of eSIM for IoT

There are four key benefits of eSIM technology in cellular IoT:

  • Easier onboarding and lower SIM switching costs: eSIM allows 100% remote provisioning even for a brand new device out of the box, tackling one of the key issues in IoT deployments that is onboarding. In turn, remote provisioning allows organizations to eliminate the need to purchase new physical SIM cards, lowering the overall costs.
  • Future-proofing devices for long-term investment: we now don’t have to worry about needing to replace the deployed IoT devices and sensors since we can eliminate carrier lock-ins and other issues with the eSIM devices. As a result, we can deploy IoT devices over a longer period to maximize investments.
  • Easier, more cost-efficient logistics: since we no longer need to replace physical SIM cards, we can eliminate the complex logistics of sending physical SIM cards to various geographic locations.
  • Maximize IoT ROI: ultimately, by reducing costs and improving logistics and operational efficiencies, we can ensure the IoT project is always on budget and maximize the ROI of the IoT project

eSIM-Supported IoT Data Plan

To make the most of eSIM technologies in the device, it is essential to also get a data plan that will support the eSIM technology, and also has a sufficient coverage area to make the most of the eSIM’s capabilities of switching between networks in a different geographic location with ease.

In choosing between different data plans for IoT, there are several key factors to consider:

  1. eSIM Support

This one is fairly obvious, not all data plans offer support for the eSIM technology, and even for those who do, not all offer the right features to make the most of the versatility provided by the eSIM technology. It’s important to ensure that the network provider also possesses the same vision of embracing the eSIM technology as the future of IoT connectivity.

For example, make sure the data plan offers the capability of instant bootstrapping (connecting brand new devices the moment they are switched on).

  1. A streamlined device management platform

Even with the eSIM technology, managing hundreds and even thousands of IoT devices remotely can be a very complex task, and it will only grow to be more complex as your IoT deployment scales.

A Truphone’s IoT SIM card and data plan can provide an IoT management platform to monitor and manage cellular IoT devices in real-time that are geographically located in different countries all over the world. Truphone for Things, for example, offers a Connectivity Management Platform with a centralized web portal and API to ensure easier IoT network deployment and ongoing maintenance.

  1. Coverage area

If you are planning to scale your IoT deployment internationally, or even globally, it’s important to get a data plan that will ‘follow’ you anywhere. That is, the data plan should offer coverage in countries and geographic locations you are planning to deploy your IoT network.

Considering roaming charges can be very significant in the long-run, it’s important to study the fine prints of the international/global coverage offered by each plan to ensure you won’t be affected by any roaming charges, ever.

  1. Cost

Obviously, the cost of the plan is an important consideration, but especially if you are planning to continuously scale your IoT deployment, calculating a future-proof cost is a must.

That is, make sure the data plan won’t charge any hidden fees or suddenly grow more expensive as you scale your IoT deployment. For example, there are plans that will charge more once you’ve exceeded a certain bandwidth or number of devices.


eSIM for IoT offers more versatility and efficiency to any IoT deployment, especially by allowing remote and instant provisioning for devices, allowing us to easily switch between networks without needing to change SIM cards.

There is no doubt that eSIM will be the future-proof connectivity solution not only for IoT devices, but for mobile devices in general, and if you are planning to make the most of eSIM for IoT, it’s very important to get the right IoT data plan for your eSIM.

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