I’m going to go ahead and say it. eSIM is about to take the lead as the main approach for consumer service delivery. If you’re a mobile operator still fighting for roaming agreements — you’re likely to be left behind.
The trigger: eSIM only mobile phones
Before Tim Cook’s announcement that the iPhone14 would be eSIM only in the US, most mobile operators relied heavily on physical SIM cards to offer their network capabilities, even if they had an eSIM side hustle to cover wearables or IoT edge cases.
Now, with the advent of eSIM only mobile phones, consumers will be able to move between operators. Instead of roaming, subscribers will be able to simply download a local data package for their two week holiday to the Maldives. Local connectivity will be a cheaper, more highly performant option.
Without the plastic SIM for stickiness, operators will need to start competing on service and support rather than that little rectangular card. With the double whammy of losing the revenues associated with roaming agreements — it’s time for mobile operators to rethink their business model.
That’s where local connectivity comes in — as a huge opportunity for the mobile operators who make the leap first. Make your network consumable so that individuals can download your profile locally, and you’ll be leading the way for a new era of connectivity.
Local connectivity is the perfect choice for IoT
So, we’ve accepted that roaming is on the way out when it comes to consumer mobile devices. Like we said, who is going to opt for a more expensive and less reliable option when they can simply download a local profile while they’re waiting for their luggage to roll around the carousel?
If roaming isn’t looking good for mobile devices, it’s really on the way out for IoT. After all, roaming never worked for IoT in the first place. Permanent roaming restrictions have been causing issues for years, data privacy is a massive compliance headache, and the kind of high performance and low latency that IoT demands was never really possible when relying on roaming.
Local connectivity for consumers might be an interesting headline, making a trip to grab some winter sun moderately cheaper for travelers, but for IoT? Local profiles being easier to download, manipulate and consume is a total game changer.
A hyperlocal, global solution for IoT
Savvy mobile operators aren’t interested in missing out on this opportunity, and that’s why I’m already seeing large players like AT&T and T-mobile invest in eSIM, ready to meet the potential of this shift in the market. These big names understand that customers don’t care about the technology — they just want always-on connectivity, with security, compliance, and flexibility at its core.
That’s why the future for IoT is local connectivity — a single SIM that has global availability, and can connect in a local way wherever it lands, seamlessly handling data privacy and compliance mandates. On top of the connectivity itself, mobile operators need to be able to offer their enterprise customers a greater level of control, because IoT is an always-on industry. Enterprises need service capabilities, network visibility, and information about events and usage in real-time.
If you’re looking to make IoT a true value-add, and stay relevant as eSIM becomes the preferred method of offering services, you’ll need to ensure you have an eSIM strategy in place — not on your roadmap, but now, in 2023.
Here are some potential action items to position yourself as the next-gen solution for global data and IoT needs. Make sure your solution supports eSIMs, and also allows customers to obtain local connectivity instead of roaming. That means IoT SIMs need to support multiple profiles, as IoT is a global business. You can make this happen via eUICC or multi-IMSI solutions. Next, IoT customers need to be able to allow application developers to view network events in real-time, control their Quality of Service, and view all billing and charging information, too. Finally, to delight potential IoT customers, these capabilities should be highly consumable, whether that’s via API or web portal.
What does the future of your business look like?
I believe that Tim Cook’s announcement leaves only two options for mobile operators. One, stick by roaming with blind loyalty — and watch yourself lose both consumer and IoT revenues. This means positioning yourself as a legacy MNO who will quickly fall behind.
Or two, become a more modern, digitally-aware MNO who can turn a threat into an opportunity, monetizing on the new trend of local connectivity. To make this happen, start minimizing the use of roaming and look for more future-focused approaches for global connectivity, those that satisfy consumers and IoT. That means localized connectivity, complete visibility and control, and a single, consolidated platform to manage devices on the ground.
Roaming is dead. Long live localized connectivity.