GSMA boosts M2M industry prospects with embedded SIM initiative

The GSM Association (GSMA) has published a new embedded SIM specification that has secured the backing of some of the world’s biggest operators and could provide a major boost to the M2M industry.

US operator AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) has gone as far as saying the initiative represents an important step in terms of ushering in a new era for M2M technology.

The specification enables remote ‘over the air’ provisioning and management of embedded SIMs in M2M devices and has been designed to ensure that different technical solutions are interoperable.

According to the GSMA – which represents the interests of telecoms operators worldwide – the first deployments of the embedded SIM will be rolled out in 2014.

“The number of mobile connected devices is expected to reach 11 billion by 2020, growth that will be led predominantly by advances in the M2M market,” said Alex Sinclair, the GSMA’s chief technology officer. “This level of growth will be heavily dependent on the adoption of a common, global and interoperable SIM provisioning and management architecture that enables the M2M market to flourish.”

“The specification released today will have a significant impact on the M2M marketplace, as it will help provide lower operational costs and drive economies of scale,” added Sinclair.

Traditional SIMs that need to be inserted and replaced have posed challenges for M2M players, because M2M devices are often remotely located and hermetically sealed.

So-called embedded SIMs are inserted into devices at the point of manufacture and can then be modified over the air, but the GSMA’s specification means operators do not have to develop their own technical solution for this remote provisioning.

It should also facilitate operator switching, if required, at the end of a contract.

According to the GSMA, the embedded SIM project has won the backing of operators and SIM partners worldwide, including AT&T, China Mobile (Beijing, China), China Unicom (Beijing, China), Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany), Gemalto (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Giesecke & Devrient (Munich, Germany), Morpho (Safran) (Issy les Moulineaux, France), NTT DoCoMo (Tokyo, Japan), Oberthur Technologies (Paris, France), Orange (Paris, France), Telecom Italia (Milan, Italy), Telefonica (Madrid, Spain), Telenor (Oslo, Norway) and Vodafone (Newbury, UK).

“Vodafone remains convinced that a prerequisite for embedded SIM applications is interoperable standards,” said Stephen Packer, the head of platforms and enablers for Vodafone Group Terminals. “We very much welcome the release of such standards for the M2M arena, which will help to accelerate innovative solutions developed with our partners.”