Reprogrammable SIMs: Technology, Evolution and Implications

24 October 2012

Summary of Report

A report for Ofcom by CSMG.

Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) are currently used in a number of physical forms and are an essential part of the mobile network user authentication and location process. A new category of embedded SIMs has been specified to meet the emerging requirements of machine to machine (M2M) applications such as Smart Meters. This includes the necessary standardisation activity to make such SIMs reprogrammable  to enable the mobile service provider for M2M devices to be changed over the lifecycle of these products.  The report also explores the potential wider use in the future of a reprogrammable SIM in mobile handsets.

  • SIM technology has evolved greatly over the last two decades, and has become a familiar part of the mobile world to consumers. While it is an invaluable tool for MNOs to provide services to these consumers, the needs of the industry and consumers have dictated the evolution towards smaller and more functional SIMs.
  • As SIM cards become smaller and smaller and capable of more, it is natural to speculate in what direction the technology will develop. It appears that embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card (eUICC) technology is the way forward, moving the SIM as an application into a hardware-agnostic world, and potentially removing the need for a removable SIM card.
  • While M2M and connected devices benefit the most from eUICC technology, we foresee the potential for consumer handset applications in the future, with today’s switching and swapping processes translated into the more seamless, consumer-friendly solution of tomorrow.
  • This, however, comes with both challenges and drawbacks around the technical and commercial implementation of such solutions, as well as the potential risks to consumer choice and cost. Several hurdles will need to be cleared and cooperation secured for a fair and comprehensive solution to arise, and thus we expect the eUICC technology to remain firmly an M2M-focused solution in the near future.

Full report

Reprogrammable SIMs - Technology, Evolution & Implications (PDF, 3.0 MB)