MFF2 + eSIM for IoT device (with end users owning subscriptions)
We have some questions on embedded SIM cards for use in our hardware, which some of you may have insights on.
About us and our product
We develop data loggers for use by automotive engineers. One of our upcoming devices will have a built-in 4G LTE modem and we are now debating whether to go for an ‘embedded SIM’ (MFF2) or an ‘external SIM holder’. Each device will be used to record and upload 0.1 - 5.0 GB of data per month.
Our use case
We prefer going with an MFF2 SIM as it’s easier in our product design and has various advantages. However, for this to work, we need to be certain that our users across different countries are able to load an ‘eSIM’ profile onto the device across various big vendors. We do not want to own the subscription - this should be between the MNO and the final end user (our customer).
We have users globally, but in particular in USA, Canada, EU and India.
Our assumption is that the following would be a possible scenario:
A customer of ours buys 1 device. He then goes to Deutsche Telekom/Verizon/AT&T/T-mobile/…, creates an account and orders an eSIM (either a private or business type). Normally, this would be used in the context of a smartphone (using a QR scanner), but in this case, the customer would copy the eSIM activation information and add it into our IoT device via a text-based configuration file. Once our IoT device powers up, our MFF2 SIM loads the activation data and it is now ready for operation with the eSIM. If the user later wishes to change to another provider, he can stop his subscription and instead add the eSIM activation info from the new provider (i.e. without being locked).
Can you confirm that the above process would be possible conceptually?
Are there any technical/commercial lock-ins to consider in this regard?
Do you see any challenges in using this approach, compared to e.g. an external SIM card?
Is there a global provider that can be used in this context, so that our end users across countries can set up a ‘consumer eSIM’ subscription with this provider (without our company being involved)? This would make it easier for use to provide documentation/guides for how our users could set up their eSIM (while still allowing them to use e.g. a local provider directly if they prefer).
Thank you for your time.
Hi @mfcss , that is an interesting idea, thanks for raising this question. I know 2 colleagues who will be able to help you, I’ll contact them and then come back to you.
Mona Parsa last edited by Mona Parsa
@mfcss Hi Martin,
First of all let’s distinguish between MFF2 chip and eUICC (eSIM). This is a common mistake in the market that a MFF2 chips is called eSIM. MFF2 is exact same technology as plastic SIM cards, just a different packaging (more industrial) which can be soldered on PCB. So no provider flexiblity in MFF2.
From what I read, you need a consumer eSIM (mentioning user interface and QR code). It comes with bootsrtap profile (for the first connection to load the target profile) The end customer will decide for the target profile and load it in the device. My knowledge about consumer eSIM is quite limited. It’s better to try and get an expert to give you more detailed info.
Thanks, I realize that MFF2 is not equal to eSIM or eUICC, rather it’s simply an embedded alternative to an external SIM card holder.
Yet, it remains slightly unclear to use if there are suitable and flexible solutions for loading target profiles onto the MFF2 across countries and providers.
Assume we embed an MFF2 chip onto our PCB and integrate it. An end customer in USA should ideally be able to call Verizon and get the necessary text information to enter into our device config to activate the MFF2. Similarly, a customer in Germany should be able to call Deutsche Telekom and do the same. In both cases, we do not wish to be involved in any way in that process - but simply deliver an “unlocked” device with an MFF2 on it. Similar to how many smartphones today ship with an MFF2 inside.
Ideally, to provide a ‘convenient’ option for our end customers, we would like to identify a single provider who is able to supply the SIM information for MFF2 chips across countries - so that our end users can go through a consistent web interface or guide to gain their SIM details. Ideally, the provider should be able to serve both private customers (who might need 1 SIM) and companies (who might need 1 to 500+ SIMs).
This concept seems to us like it should be identical to how a company might purchase brand new iPhone12 phones for a staff of 50 people - and how they might then call their local provider to get eSIM information for the phones in a batch. In our case, the info would simply be loaded onto an IoT device instead of an iPhone12.
Our concern is whether there is something missing in our logic above. It seems when we contact various providers, they get very confused when we try to explain what we’d like to do - as if we’re the only ones thinking of using ‘consumer eSIM’ information in an IoT-style product (not M2M eSIM).
Mona Parsa last edited by Mona Parsa
@mfcss Let’s please not call the eUICC or eSIM, MFF2. Maybe that’s the reason for the confusions.
You cannot change the profile on MFF2 , the same as you cannot do it on your plastic SIM.
You need a consumer eSIM and this has HW part which is still embedded/solderable
When you use consumer eSIM in your product, it comes with a bootsrtap profile (equivalent to WiFi in iPhone which is required to download eSIM profile )
As much as I know, this is something DT offers for consumer products such as smart watch, eldery, child monitoring and some bikes with UI. Let’s get you a consumer eSIM expert to give you more info.
@mfcss I checked the Deutsche Telekom pages about how the process is to get an eSIM profile.
- you got a device
- you contact Deutsche Telekom
- You sign a contract for mobile connectivity
- You request an eSIM profile instead orderin plastic SIM
- you get the profile.
Now assuming the user wants to migrate to another Telco provider they would need to do the same steps there…
But what I understand from your question: You intend to have 1 central provider where you (?) sign kind of a frame contract and want then that your users cann call that central provider and choose a telco operator that they want and then get an eSIM profile from that operator?
does this page here help you?
Mona Parsa last edited by
@mfcss I think you can get this by a ‘Bootstrap provider’ . DT offers connectivity and is not offering bootstrap (only) profiles.
What we offer in consumer eSIM product is connectivity, not just bootstrap as you require.
Mona Parsa last edited by
@mona-parsa Something like this?
Thanks for all the inputs.
To clarify a bit:
On the “hardware” side, the form factor that we would prefer is MFF2, where the chip is soldered onto the PCB during our PCB assembly. It brings advantages in terms of production, costs, ingress protection etc.
When it comes to the “software” we essentially want to enable our end customers to choose their own vendor for the SIM - just like they would do if they were to use a physical external SIM card. If we forget the “global provider” for a second, the first step for us is to understand if there are some technical limitations to this concept:
Question 1: Is anything going to prevent us from adding an MFF2 module on our PCB and then enable our users to configure our device with the relevant SIM information from their preferred local provider? (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, DT, etc). From some of the posts here, it sounds as if the MFF2 module is from a “technical” point-of-view “locked” - similar to how a physical external SIM card is “locked” to a provider. However, this seems counter-intuitive, since both smart watches, iPhones etc. all seem to have MFF2 modules that are “unlocked” (meaning a smartwatch customer can call his local provider and get the SIM details required to activate the smart watch - without involving the smartwatch manufacturer in anyway). Hope this makes sense?
@mfcss the difference between an MFF2 and an eSIM is:
- MFF2 is a form factor same like 4FF etc. You need a contract with an operator and then order these SIM on a tape and then solder it onto the PCB and later can activate with a tariff from that operator
- an eSIM is an integrated cirquit that you solder onto the PCB and later your customers go to any operator of your choice and ask to get a contract
I don’t have enough knowledge about that but please check the Thales URL: https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/markets/digital-identity-and-security/mobile/connectivity/esim/what-is-an-esim
Thank you for your inputs.
What we wish to implement is an embedded SIM with a Consumer Profile architecture, where our end users are able to “pull” the profile they want from their preferred provider - whether that is e.g. Verizon, AT&T, DT, …
When I mention MFF2 in this regard, it is because my assumption (at least so far) had been that this would be the physical form-factor that would be used for the embedded SIM module that is to be soldered onto the PCB of e.g. a smartwatch, smartphone - or our data logger.
However, if the MFF2 is in reality “locked” to the UICC model (where a provider is pre-defined on a wheel of MFF2 modules), what would be an example form factor and hardware name for an eUICC enabled chip that is to be soldered onto a PCB (i.e. an embedded SIM with eUICC)?
And do you have an example of such a module with a link?
@mfcss I’ve got another hint from a colleague:
Arkessa seems to have implemented a solution for GSMA’s ‘Remote Provisioning Architecture for Embedded UICC (eUICC)’ - eUICC and eSIM are synonyms:
Read more here: https://www.arkessa.com/services/managed-global-connectivity/euicc/
Maybe this is even the complete solution which is needed here.
With that solution, there is not even the need to pass the QRcode data to the application as the module will download the prepared profile using a QRcode entered on a web portal. Even a change later on to another provider is possible by assigning a new profile to the eUICC which is downloaded by the module later on.