Demand for embedded SIM card (eSIM) technology is set to skyrocket over the next four years, according to a new report which predicts a growth rate of 180% between now and 2025.
Traditionally, connection to a cellular network has involved the use of a physical SIM card and any change in network has required a SIM swap. Because eSIMs are software-based, any switch in provider can be handled remotely.
This flexibility has the potential to transform the consumer market as the requirement to physically change a SIM card is one of the greatest barriers to switching networks if a customer is unsatisfied.
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eSIMs also pave the way for short-term deals if one operator has superior coverage in a particular area, or if they are travelling in a foreign country. The technology also transforms the economics of massive IoT deployments that rely on sensors being left untouched for up to ten years.
Juniper Research says there are currently 1.2 billion connected devices, such as smartphones, consumer electronics and IoT sensors, that have eSIM connectivity. This will reach 3.4 billion by 2025, with the consumer market accounting for 94% of installations.
Most major flagship handsets now support the technology, as do wearables such as smartwatches, with common frameworks from the likes of Apple and Google facilitating growth. Analysts want device makers to place pressure on operators to support these frameworks and accelerate market maturation.
“Ensuring convenience for the end user must remain the top priority for eSIM management platform providers,” said research author Scarlett Woodford. “To do so, they must provide a level of service comparable to that found with traditional SIM deployments.”
The situation in the IoT market is a bit more complicated. Analysts believe the different combinations of wireless technologies, hardware and management tools mean there will be a need for specialist vendors that can provide services for industrial environments. Nonetheless, it predicts that the oil and gas, manufacturing and logistics sectors will provide a platform for growth.
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.