An embedded-SIM (eSIM), or embedded universal integrated circuit card (eUICC), is a form of programmable SIM that is embedded directly into a device.
Rather than a physical SIM card that is manually inserted into a device an eSIM is permanently surface mounted to a mobile device at the factory. It improves reliability and network security, while also reducing space requirements, since a relatively bulky connector is not needed, increasing design flexibility.
An eSIM is typically provisioned remotely; end-users can add or remove operators without the need to physically swap a SIM from the device. All eSIM's are programmed with a permanent eSIM ID (EID) at the factory. This number is used by the provisioning service to associate the device with an existing carrier subscription as well as to negotiate a secure channel for programming.
eSIM is a global specification by the GSMA that enables remote SIM provisioning of any mobile device. GSMA defines eSIM as the SIM for the next generation of connected consumer devices. Networking solutions using eSIM technology can be widely applied to various Internet of Things (IoT) scenarios, including connected cars (smart rearview mirrors, on-board diagnostics (OBD), vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots), artificial intelligence translators, MiFi devices, smart earphones, smart metering, GPS tracking units, DTU, bike-sharing, advertising players, video surveillance devices, etc.
eSIM uses the same electrical interface as a physical SIM as defined in ISO/IEC 7816. Once a carrier profile has been installed on an eSIM it operates the same as a physical SIM, complete with a unique ICCID and network authentication key generated by the carrier.
The physical form factor of an eSIM chip is commonly designated MFF2.
Since 2010, the GSMA had been discussing the possibility of a software-based SIM.
While Motorola noted that eUICC is geared at industrial devices, Apple "disagreed that there is any statement forbidding the use of an embedded UICC in a consumer product.". Currently the GSMA maintains two different versions of the standard, one for consumer devices and another for M2M devices.
A first version of the standard was published in March 2016, followed by a second version in November 2016.
In 2017, during Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm introduced a technical solution, with a live demonstration, within its Snapdragon hardware chip associated with related software (secured Java applications).
The European Commission selected in 2012 the embedded UICC format for its in-vehicle emergency call service, known as eCall. All new car models in the EU must have one by 2018 to instantly connect the car to emergency services in case of an accident.
Singapore is seeking public opinions on introducing eSIM as a new standard, as more compatible devices enter the market.
Apple implemented eSIM support in its Apple Watch Series 3 and later, in addition to every iPad released since the iPad Pro (3rd generation). Apple also included eSIM support with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, and later featuring Dual SIM. eSIM support on iPhone requires iOS 12.1 or later. eSIM on iPhone is not offered in China mainland. In Hong Kong and Macao, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone SE (2nd generation), and iPhone XS feature eSIM.
Google unveiled the Pixel 2 in October 2017, which added eSIM support for use with its Google Fi service. In 2018, Google released the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL and subsequently in May 2019, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, with eSIM support for carriers other than Google Fi. In October that same year, Google released the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL with eSIM support.
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