Everything you need to know about SIM provisioning

Remote SIM provisioning can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding disruptions in connectivity. Learn how.
Paige Bates
January 18, 2023
Electric bikes charging

SIM provisioning bridges the gap between IoT devices with the digital world — and with eUICC, it can open a world of possibilities.

For example, think of an e-bike company that installs one SIM card in an entire fleet of cellular-connected e-bikes. After manufacturing, the fleet is prepared for shipment around the world, and the bikes are assigned the right cellular profile for their final destination. Once a bike is activated by an end user, the manufacturer can still remotely access the bike to complete critical updates and ensure connectivity.

With eUICC, IoT teams can unlock the full potential of remote SIM provisioning (RSP).

What is IoT SIM card provisioning?

At its most basic definition, provisioning is the act of getting something ready to deploy. In IoT, SIM card provisioning ensures the SIM is accounted for in the databases that will determine whether or not it has the permissions to attach to a particular network or to a particular carrier. Beyond the initial SIM registration, provisioning can also include enabling the correct profile on a multi-profile SIM, or activating profiles on the SIM so they are ready to connect to the cellular network.

Traditionally, SIM cards come pre-programmed, so any necessary updates would require physical access to the device and SIM card slot. For widely distributed deployments, like logistics tracking devices or micromobility fleets, this could pose huge challenges to issuing necessary updates and optimizing coverage. However, with eUICC or multi-IMSI SIM cards, connectivity can be managed like software, with updates issued over-the-air through a process called “Remote SIM Provisioning” (RSP).

The standardization of remote SIM provisioning

While eUICC and multi-IMSI SIM cards can both enable over-the-air updates, the key difference is that eUICC has defined standards by 3GPP. There are many different components to supporting over-the-air updates, and standardization ensures broad compatibility and reliability.

The 3GPP standards outline standards for both hardware and network providers that create greater capabilities in the field. When new or revised standards are introduced, updates must be completed on both the network and hardware for the functionality to be available to end devices.                 There are many moving parts that are foundational to RSP. The standards governing eUICC ensure that critical updates can be issued when needed.

The importance of remote SIM provisioning in IoT

The cellular connectivity landscape is changing — and, this can have a significant impact on IoT deployments. Solutions demand greater flexibility than ever before, and RSP plays an important role in protecting businesses from risks in a few key areas.

  • Commercial risk: The ability to tailor coverage once devices are in the field can help ensure the ROI of a deployment. That could involve updating connectivity to optimize costs or performance or take advantage of an emerging technology, like 5G.
  • Regulatory risk: Geopolitical regulations around connectivity are constantly changing. The ability to issue updates to devices over-the-air to ensure compliance with data sovereignty and roaming requirements can be incredibly valuable.

Beyond using RSP as a “parachute” that can protect deployments from risks, the technology also opens up the door for further innovation. It has the potential to streamline processes and enable teams to further own their deployments.

How remote SIM provisioning works

Every IoT SIM card with eUICC capabilities is issued with a bootstrap cellular profile. This initial profile ensures that the end device can always connect to the specified carrier network and download new operational profiles to tailor coverage. The operational profile is what determines what networks the SIM can access and connect to.

So, how does this work in practice?The SIM first connects to the internet via the bootstrap profile. Then, RSP sends an SMS to initiate the new operational profile download. The SIM confirms, and connects to the RSP. The operational profile is downloaded and installed on the SIM. The new profile can then be tested and once confirmed, it can officially connect to the internet. If at any point RSP fails, the SIM will automatically default back to the bootstrap profile to maintain connectivity.

Case study: IoT SIM provisioning

To illustrate how this might work in practice, let’s consider a company that develops and deploys cellular connected payment terminals in six markets around the world. The team is able to build with one eUICC-enabled SIM card across their entire global fleet, so they don’t have to segment inventory by carrier-specific SIM cards.

The company’s customers rely on consistent coverage to process transactions for their businesses. However, in one region, customers have shared that the device is slow to process payments. The team inspects what other profiles may provide better performance in the region, and uses RSP to swap operational profiles.

Selecting the right connectivity provider

It’s not enough for connectivity providers to have “eUICC” listed on their websites. Although many IoT connectivity providers offer eUICC SIM cards, not all routinely complete over-the-air updates.

When searching for the right solution for your deployment, be sure to probe into vendors’ level of experience with RSP. How often do they complete profile swaps? What is their perspective on the future of eUICC capabilities? How do they view selecting the right solution for your deployment? Consider their answers in light of your specific use case needs.

Recommended reading: The changing mindset on connectivity: Why one size no longer fits all?

Global IoT SIM cards built for the future

Hologram’s eUICC-enabled Hyper SIMs give IoT teams the confidence and flexibility to scale with ease. Easily complete over-the-air updates to tailor coverage, and reduce complexity by building with a single SKU for your entire fleet. Learn more and future-proof your deployment here.

Get started with Hologram today

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