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February 18, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 5:19pm

Samsung backs GSMA embedded SIM for IoT, wearables and tablets

News: New specification is backed by Vodafone, Telefonica, EE, Apple, Qualcomm and others.

By Alexander Sword

The GSMA has taken a further step towards connecting all devices with the launch of a new specification that is already being built into new Samsung devices.

Released by the GSMA‘s Consumer Remote SIM Provisioning initiative, the new technology will allow consumers to connect companion devices that operate independently of a smartphone.

They will be able to remotely connect these devices to a mobile network of their choice by easily activating the SIM embedded in the device.

The embedded SIM can be switched between different networks without having to access the inner electronics of the device, which is not an issue with smartphones but is with wearables where space is more limited.

While the initiative will not replace SIM cards in the field, it aims to allow multiple devices to be connected through the same subscription. Device manufacturers, meanwhile, will be able to develop lighter and smaller mobile devices more suited for the wearable technology applications.

The initiative is a consumer application for work previously undertaken in the M2M world by the GSMA to allow devices sold in bulk to be remotely switched

Some of the world’s largest operators, including Vodafone, Telefonica, EE and CK Hutchinson are backing the initiative. For them, it could provide a new revenue stream as consumers connect more of their secondary mobile devices directly to data networks.

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There is also involvement from large device-makers such as Apple, Huawei, LG, Microsoft, Sony and Samsung, as well as chip-makers such as Qualcomm.

Currently most non-smartphone consumer devices rely on being wirelessly connected to a smartphone. For example, the Apple Watch has no cellular connectivity of its own and must always be paired with an iPhone to be of use. This is typically performed through Bluetooth.

The Samsung Gear S is an exception to this, carrying its own 3G connectivity to allow people to receive messages without a phone.

"This is an essential next step as device makers use embedded SIMs in smaller devices, particularly cellular-enabled wearables," said Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight.

"CCS Insight forecasts 30 percent of smartwatches sold in 2020 will be cellular enabled which underlines the opportunity that is emerging."

Alongside the GSMA announcement, Samsung has announced that the new Samsung Gear S2 classic 3G will be equipped with a GSMA-standardised e-SIM.

However, this application will not just be found in wearables, but tablets as well, which generally don’t feature cellular connectivity.

Ian Pannell, Chief Engineer at the GSMA, told CBR that the inability to remotely provision SIMs had been one of several obstacles in launching cellular-enabled wearables.

"The consumer needs choice and local user control. This specification will enable consumers to swap their device onto other networks."

Pannell described this as "a digital replacement for the pocketful of SIM cards you might have in your wallet.

"The device doesn’t have to be earmarked for a particular network but can be sold worldwide to anyone."

Pannell told CBR that this was part of a wider effort to seed the IoT and wearables market.

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