Apple and Samsung said to be close to e-SIM agreement

The world’s two biggest smartphone vendors – Apple and Samsung – are close to joining the rest of the industry in a move to electronic SIMs, according to a report in the FT.

The e-SIM initiative was announced by the GSMA operator association at its Mobile World Congress event back in March of this year. At the time the named stakeholders were all operators, which is fine but it also requires buy in from SIM providers and handset vendors. If Apple and Samsung are on board then it’s fair to assume all others will follow.

“Currently there is no agreed industry solution for how consumers can remotely connect devices to a mobile network,” said Alex Sinclair, Chief Technology Officer of the GSMA in March. “This announcement demonstrates that the industry is unified in working to create a common and interoperable specification that will reduce market fragmentation and maintain the experience of connecting devices in the future.”

How close Apple and Samsung are to signing on the dotted line is unclear from the article, but the GSMA told the FT it is optimistic a formal agreement will be achieved, although the original target date of 2016 remains unchanged. There was no comment from either of the handset vendors.

In a statement to the GSMA was keen to stress it has not yet formally signed up any specific device makers. “The technical architecture has been agreed and the initiative has the backing of many mobile operators, device makers and SIM vendors, but we have not announced commitments by any specific device makers at this point,” said the statement.

Meanwhile Gemalto, a leading SIM provider, has been demonstrating “remote provisioning of consumer devices based on GSMA architecture” at MWC Shanghai. “Our On-Demand Connectivity platform provides a solution for operators, device manufacturers and service providers alike, to provide secure and instant connectivity to the end consumers for their growing array of smart devices,” said Benoit Jouffrey, Vice President of On-Demand Connectivity for Gemalto. “Showcasing the GSMA consumer market architecture and the profile interoperability gives us the opportunity to put forth a stepping stone for the IoT industry at large to embrace standardized technologies for quicker adoption.”

This whole initiative is an interesting one for operators to champion as it removes another layer of customer dependency on them. An electronic SIM should allow almost instantaneous switching between operators, thus making the market even more competitive, but it is sensible for operators to embrace the inevitable and ensure they’re at the forefront of its developments. This kind of technology is also pretty much a pre-requisite for IoT as it will remove a lot of cost and hassle from connecting any device to a mobile network.

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