Ian Marsden, CTO at Eseye
Anyone connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and M2M communications industries will be acutely aware of the levels of ambition and investment being set for the Embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card, more widely known as eUICC, or the eSIM.
A 2017 report from IHS Markit, for example, suggests that eSIM shipments will increase from 109 million in 2016, to 986 million by 2021. This growth will largely be driven by continuing IoT development, with eSIMs set to play a major role in ensuring the connectivity of billions of connected devices around the world.
The automotive industry is a prime example of a sector that has been keen to drive the technology forwards. With connected cars quickly becoming mainstream, the eUICC compliant eSIM has the potential to empower manufacturers by offering new opportunities to simplify logistics and optimise costs.
But industry ambition doesn’t stop there. The eSIM is being hailed as the next evolution of the SIM card, prompting vendors, operators and service providers to trial new eSIM-based edge solutions in an attempt to secure their position in the huge and growing global cellular, IoT and device connectivity markets.
Clearly, there is plenty of optimism around the eSIM,much of which is based on some key benefits being promoted by the IoT telecoms industry to customers. But, is there a gap between the perception and current reality of the eSIM?
Undoubtedly the most important benefit of eSIM technology – and the one most widely referred to – relates to enhanced provisioning.
Traditionally, SIM cards have been provisioned with the profile of a single mobile network operator (MNO), which once locked in, cannot be changed. This means customers must replace their SIM card every time they want to change operators. While this is a manageable task and something we are all used to when talking about a personal mobile phone, it has massive cost implications for IoT customers managing thousands, if not millions, of remotely located edge devices, over many years and across potentially vast areas.
With new, eUICC compliant eSIMs, the plan is for MNO provisioning to be managed over-the-air, with no physical access to the device required. The cards should be able to host multiple and changeable provider profiles when they are deployed. This should mean that customers can change carriers on a daily basis if they so wish, depending on business factors such as connectivity, resilience, customer service SLAs and the data rates available.
This requirement has significant implications for enterprises with large-scale IoT deployments. Embedded eSIMs remove the cost and logistics headaches that come with having to manually change a SIM card or network provider, as well, for example, as maximising device uptime by allowing a choice of the best local network operator.
There are also benefits for both manufacturers and operators to consider. As eSIM-equipped devices are ready to go straight out of the factory, IoT business managers and technologists can, in theory, streamline their logistics by removing the need for local device set up and configuration further down the supply chain, no matter where they are deployed.
With IoT customers being promised an improved cellular supplier negotiating position, increased management convenience and the removal of a considerable amount of complexity and risk of ongoing costs from operators, it’s easy to see why they are drawn to the eUICC compliant eSIM.
However, despite these benefits, the current eUICC specification doesn’t yet solve all the problems of IoT.
The Gap to eUICC delivery
The problem currently facing potential eSIM customers is that while industry discussions have so far focused on the potential benefits offered to businesses, there are also several commercial and technical challenges that will need to be understood and worked through over the coming months.
Operators are aware of the continuing commoditisation of M2M cellular data with this newly enabled, simple,least-cost transferring option. The whole point of eSIM technology is that, unlike traditional SIM cards, it provides a means of avoiding contractual lock-in. However, this is not in operators’ interests, and may not always benefit customers in the way they imagine.
IoT deployments can be complex. Organisations will increasingly rely on the reliable delivery of vast amounts of business – and possibly even life-critical – data, drawn from huge numbers of devices,across many different locations and environments. There is a cost to maintain and deliver this service, and while some companies can reduce the TCO of a deployment with specialist wrap-around services, dynamic multi-IMSI SIM technology and expert 24/7 IoT customer support, getting the data through will always come at a price.
In addition, although eSIMs might appear to offer an easier switching process for customers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is contractually any different and there will still be a procedure for customers to go through.
There are also some significant technology integration issues that will need to be overcome before adoption rates can really take off, primarily concerning remote provisioning. The industry has been keen to promote the idea that eSIMs enable customers to change their supplier at will, but in practice, both suppliers must be integrated at this tech level, in a way that allows data to flow.
Essentially, both parties not only have to agree to the transfer, the relevant systems must also be bolted together to actually make it happen.The device itself also has to be able to communicate with both platforms. From years of experience in dynamic IMIS routing and IoT device optimisation, I can say this is likely to be a longer and more complicated process than people think.
I believe eSIM standards are undoubtedly a move in the right direction, but there is still some way to go for eUICC to become the revolutionary innovation it is predicted to be.
Siemens Healthineers gains EU nod for $16.4 billion Varian buy
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators on Friday cleared with conditions Siemens Healthineers’ $16.4 billion acquisition of U.S. peer Varian, paving the way for the German health group to become a world leader in cancer care therapy.
The European Commission said Siemens Healthineers pledged to ensure that its medical imaging and radiotherapy equipment will work with rivals in return for its approval, confirming a Reuters story. The pledge is valid for 10 years.
“High quality medical imaging and radiotherapy solutions are crucial to diagnose and treat cancer. The efficiency and safety of treatment relies on the ability of these products to work together,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
Varian is the leader in radiation therapy with a market share of more than 50%. The deal received the U.S. antitrust green light in October last year.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
By Gilles Guillaume
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a shortage of semiconductor chips, that could make for another rough year for the French carmaker.
Renault reported an 8 billion euro ($9.7 billion) loss for 2020 which, combined with gloomy take on the market, sent its shares down more than 5% in late morning trading.
“We are in the midst of a battle to try to manage a difficult year in terms of supply chains, of components,” Chief Executive Luca de Meo told reporters. “This is all the collateral damage of the Covid pandemic… we will have a fairly volatile year.”
De Meo, who took over last July, is looking at ways to boost profitability and sales at Renault while pushing ahead with cost cuts. There were early signs of improving momentum as margins inched up in the second half of 2020.
The group gave no financial guidance for this year, although it said it might reach a target of achieving 2 billion euros in costs cuts by 2023 ahead of time, possibly by December.
Executives said they were confident the carmaker could be profitable in the second half of 2021, but that they lacked sufficient market visibility to provide a forecast.
Renault struck a cautious note, saying it was focused on its recovery but warned orders had faltered in early 2021 as pandemic restrictions continued in some countries.
The group is facing new challenges as the European Union tightens emissions regulations and after rivals PSA and Fiat Chrysler joined forces to create Stellantis, the world’s fourth-biggest automaker.
The auto industry endured a tough 2020 but a swift rebound in premium car sales in China helped companies such as Volkswagen and Daimler to weather the storm.
Auto companies globally have since been hit by a shortage of semiconductors that has forced production cuts worldwide.
“The beginning of the year has shown some signs of weakness,” De Meo told analysts, but added the chip shortage should be resolved by the second half of 2021. “We have taken the necessary measures to anticipate and overcome challenges.”
Renault estimated the chip shortage could reduce its production by about 100,000 vehicles this year.
The group was already loss-making in 2019, but took a sharp hit in 2020 during lockdowns to fight the pandemic, which also hurt its Japanese partner Nissan.
Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a 7.4 billion euro loss for 2020. The group posted negative free cash flow for 2020.
The 2018 arrest of Carlos Ghosn, who formerly lead the alliance between Renault and Nissan, plunged the automakers into turmoil.
In a further sign that the companies have been working to repair the alliance, De Meo told journalists that Renault and Nissan will announce new joint products together in the coming weeks or months.
Renault has begun to raise prices on some car models, and group operating profit, which was negative for 2020 as a whole, improved in the last six months of the year, reaching 866 million euros or 3.5% of revenue.
Analysts at Jefferies said the operating performance was better than expected. Sales were still falling in the second half, but less sharply.
Renault is slashing jobs and trimming its range of cars, allowing it to slice spending in areas like research and development as it focuses on redressing its finances. It is also pivoting more towards electric cars as part of its revamp.
It was already struggling more than some rivals with sliding sales before the pandemic, after years of a vast expansion drive it is now trying to rein in, focusing on profitable markets.
De Meo told journalists on Friday that the French carmaker will make three new higher-margin models at its Palencia plant in Spain, where manufacturing costs are lower, between 2022 and 2024.
($1 = 0.8269 euros)
(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume and Sarah White in Paris, Nick Carey in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing, David Evans and Jan Harvey)
UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.
Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.
“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.
($1 = 0.7152 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)
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