eSIM: Driving global connectivity in the automotive industry

Within the next five years, all cars built will be cellular-enabled, leading to an enhanced driving experience made possible by innovative connected services, like assisted driving and better infotainment.

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Strategic Product Manager

Head of Global Connectivity for Automotive

Strategic Product Manager

Contributor (+1)

Head of Global Connectivity for Automotive

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Chevrolet recently issued a recall on its flagship 2020 Corvette model to fix a glitch in its trunk. As a result, some owners will have to take their car to the dealer for the necessary software update, but for those who signed up to receive theirs over-the-air (OTA), the update will be made automatically and without any disruption to their lives. And this will occur no matter where they are located - all thanks to the combination of cellular and eSIM (embedded subscriber identity module) technology, also known as eUICC (embedded universal integrated circuit card).

The emergence of eSIM for automotive has afforded the industry great flexibility when it comes to enabling cars and trucks with cellular connectivity and unlocking a world of new features and capabilities. For the automaker still relying on a fixed SIM card, they are locked into a single provider, and with that comes unnecessary complexity and cost.

When in roam...

Currently, a lot of communications service providers (CSPs) offer plans that utilize eSIM and roaming in a complementary manner. As the industry and its IoT needs continue to change, this model will not be sustainable down the road and in no market is this more evident than automotive.

An automobile must be able to connect to the cellular network no matter where it goes. In many regions, cars and trucks will be crossing borders regularly. For those just passing through, there aren’t normally issues, but for those staying for extended periods of time (more than three months), they will be subject to the local data regulations. In some countries (e.g. Russia, India, China, Brazil, Turkey, UAE), regulations prohibit roaming for extended periods of time (again, more than three months) and others ban it outright and require the auto manufacturer to take a contract with a local provider. A fixed SIM card will have to be physically changed to work with a new carrier. Also, while roaming might be able to support high bandwidth data transfer, like accessing video content from an infotainment system, it comes at a much greater cost. Delay tolerant functions, like telematics, do work, but not optimally.

In most roaming situations, the data must travel from the vehicle to its home provider and back again, creating considerable latency, which is not acceptable for mission critical situations like assisted or autonomous driving – both delay sensitive services. Some regulations, like in China, complicate this further by preventing data from leaving the country in which it is created. This makes roaming a rigid option that cannot be sustained.

Fortunately, eSIM overcomes all those challenges.

Driving forward with eSIM

From a connected vehicle’s birth in the factory, to the port, to dealer, to the consumer -- no matter where in the world it goes -- eSIM allows for a steady, compliant, high performant local connection, and most important, seamless.

Having to change a SIM card along with a provider is an arduous process. Just the security of the change alone is complex and only a few vendors can do it. eSIM streamlines the supply chain as manufacturers only need to maintain one stock keeping unit (SKU) instead of multiple.

Simplifying complexities

The promise of eSIM for automotive is enormous, however, it does come with complexities. This includes having to manage, orchestrate and harmonize different eSIM and connectivity management platforms, as well as ensuring these systems are interoperable. Simplifying these must be key consideration to any CSP’s IoT strategy. Not all connectivity management platforms are created equally, and some will greatly maximize the flexibility that eSIM provides to the automotive market, while others will just hinder them, and that is where Ericsson can help.

Ericsson helped pioneer eSIM management in the IoT platform market and has been helping vehicle manufacturers leverage connectivity since 2012. By partnering with automotive manufactures and CSPs, it has been able to evolve and enhance the IoT Accelerator platform to exceed the needs of today’s modern IoT operators. Today, we provide eSIM connectivity and management support for more than 20 CSPs.

IoT Accelerator’s robust eSIM management engine enables both automakers and CSPs to orchestrate necessary remote SIM provisioning systems and define their own business logic. It also allows access to a global common and distributed core network coupled with the ability to create their own IoT ecosystem. This creates the ideal connectivity and subscriptions management needed within the automotive industry.

To learn more about how eSIM for automotive technology can benefit vehicle manufacturers and CSPs, check out Ericsson’s connected vehicle solutions and universal connectivity for automotive use cases.

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