The Top 10 Enterprise ‘Use Cases’ for eSIM

Share this post

I believe that eSIMs are going to completely transform the way that large businesses purchase and manage mobile services globally.

It’s going to be much bigger than cheap roaming mobile data and for CIOs and IT leaders it’s time to start planning and taking advantage.

If you’ve travelled abroad recently or booked a flight, then the chances are you’ve started to see lots of adverts and promotions about roaming eSIMs and how they can help you save money on roaming mobile data costs. You might also have been offered an eSIM by your domestic mobile provider instead of a physical SIM when taking out a new personal mobile or business subscription.

Airlines, banks, local mobile operators, travel companies and new entrant digital mobile providers are all joining the eSIM market and quickly taking market share from incumbent networks. What’s more, global technology providers like Apple are driving the adoption of eSIM, which is forcing the hand of mobile networks that were initially reluctant to support eSIM. For example, in the USA, the iPhone 14 was only available as an eSIM only device and so it won’t be long before that is the standard for most smartphones.

The Evolving Landscape

For industry IT veterans who can recall the start of telecoms deregulation, eSIM feels very similar to the way ‘Least Cost Routing’ for telephone calls initially opened up the fixed line telecoms market to alternative providers in the 1990’s, which paved the way for the highly competitive telecoms market we have today in the UK, instead of the previous duopoly of BT and Mercury (Cable & Wireless).

In this article, I set out the evolving landscape for eSIM and provide an overview of what eSIMs are, how they work, and what the short and mid-term ‘use cases’ for eSIM are in large UK and Multi-National businesses.

eSIM Defined

An eSIM or embedded SIM is simply a chip on your smartphone (or tablet / laptop) that can be used to load and store different mobile network SIMs digitally, rather than physically. In the same way that a dual SIM smartphone has two physical SIM slots that allow two SIM cards to be inserted into the phone, the eSIM enabled device does this digitally and in the case of an iPhone can store up to 8 eSIMs at one time.

Loading & Configuring eSIMs

As a digital product, eSIMs have to be initially loaded onto the smartphone, tablet or laptop, either temporarily with an expiry date, or more permanently (for example instead of a physical SIM).

Until recently, this has been most commonly achieved by scanning a QR code, which provides a link to a secure server and allows the phone to pull down the unique network registration credentials. Early adopters found this QR process to be quite awkward, however, more recently it’s been possible to scan the QR code from within the phone, and most recently a few suppliers are now adopting the latest push technologies so that they can send the eSIM directly to the phone.

Where an eSIM is used in conjunction with a corporate managed device, MDM platforms including Microsoft Intune, are now starting to support ‘Over the Air’ (OTA) deployment of eSIM directly to devices. This allows IT teams to simply push and efficiently load the eSIM onto the device, which further simplifies the process for the user.

Once loaded onto the phone and from within device settings, the user can then simply select which SIMs (physical or eSIM) should be active at anytime, and also which of these SIMs should be used as the default SIM for data. Standard SIM settings like enabling roaming data are then configured for each SIM.

It should be noted, that whilst some phones might have a storage capacity of eight eSIMS, of these, only two connections can be active at anytime (either one physical SIM plus an eSIM, or two eSIMs), and only one of these can be active at a time for accessing data. So for example, it’s currently not possible to automatically use a work eSIM for business use, such as email and a personal eSIM for say Netflix or social media.

Some devices offer data switching, which simply allows the device to switch between SIMs for data where there is poor or no coverage on the default data SIM. As eSIM and phones develop, it is likely that we’ll see smartphones with two active data SIMs and management controls start to emerge over the next few years.

eSIM Use Case # 1Roaming Mobile Data / Travel 

Whilst eSIMs have many potential uses, providing alternative access to roaming mobile services is the use case that’s gaining the most attention.

In the consumer market, there are already hundreds of roaming mobile services available including eSIM providers (e.g. Airalo and Holafly), a wide range of start ups, and interestingly from businesses like airlines (e.g. Wizz Air) and travel companies, as well as brand builders like banks (e.g. Revolut) that are seeing eSIM as a path to improve the customer experience and loyalty.

Most of these services follow a similar model, which is to offer eSIMs either on a pre-paid, per trip basis (e.g. provides the service (typically data) in a specific country, for a fixed duration and specific data allowance for a fixed fee), or on a regional or global basis (e.g. a range of countries in a specific region/s for a fixed cost, duration and allowance).

In most cases, the user selects the provider and eSIM package of their choice, makes the up-front payment, and then either downloads an app which guides them through the installation process, or they receive a QR code to scan and load the eSIM. Once an eSIM is loaded, it is typically activated when the user is abroad and switches their settings to select the eSIM as their default SIM for data. If everything goes to plan, the user receives the service and cost-effective data.

For business, the process is largely similar, however with a smaller range of vendors offering consolidated accounts and support portals for businesses to purchase eSIMs centrally. For example, with SureSIM Global from Utelize Mobile, they offer real time data management, one global tariff, ‘Over the Air’ (OTA) deployment, and range of content and usage controls to ensure that roaming “bill shock” is a thing of the past.

eSIM Use Case # 2Business and Personal Numbers on one Phone

eSIM enables users to have different mobile numbers active on their phone, potentially removing the need for two phones. By deploying eSIM on a smartphone, a user could have a physical SIM or eSIM for their corporate voice and data connection, and an additional active second eSIM for their personal mobile number for voice and SMS. Thereby creating two numbers on one device, but with the ability to quickly turn off one of the lines when needed (for example turning off the business line for out of work hours or when on holiday).

eSIM Use Case # 3Data Enabled Laptops and Tablets

A growing number of laptops and tablets are being offered with eSIM, which allows the opportunity for businesses to provide high quality mobile connectivity for users and remove the need for public Wi-Fi on the move. Whilst tethering provides an alternative to Wi-Fi, it simply does not compare from a user experience to a 5G embedded connection that’s available on boot up. On device, eSIM connectivity tends to be quicker, requires no user set up, and is more secure than Wi-Fi.

eSIM Use Case # 4 – Enhanced Coverage through Multi-Network Data Services

Unlike local mobile network SIMs which are typically tied to a single issuing network, global data eSIMs can provide users with access to multiple networks within each country. Originally designed to support roaming data, the same services can now offer enhanced coverage for domestic data in home countries.

This model also offers corporates the opportunity to split their mobile provision between voice and SMS on one SIM, with users provided multi-network data access on a second eSIM.

eSIM Use Case # 5Real Time Management & Private Mobile Data Connectivity

Building on the use case for data enabled laptops and tablets and multi-network access, next generation enterprise mobile services built on eSIM also include a range of management tools including real time data usage management, flexible usage and cost controls, the ability to prevent data access in specific countries or zones (for example preventing connecting to satellites), and content policy controls which prevent access to services like streaming, but allow access to corporate applications.

Data connectivity can also be provided with the option of a Private APN applied to the service. Private APN’s seamlessly route all data traffic from devices back to the corporate network via a VPN or dedicated IP link, for even greater control and security. Effectively think of this type of solution as a route to make corporate mobile devices (e.g. laptops and tablets) an extension of the corporate WAN.

It is also a highly effective solution when deploying connected devices like cellular routers, EPOS devices and IoT devices, as eSIMs cannot be switched from the device like a physical SIM. This then removes the need for IMEI locking, creating a much more secure method of connectivity.

eSIM Use Case # 6Simplifying BYOD Roaming Data Expenses

With BYOD, users typically also provide their own SIM and mobile data, which doesn’t tend to be an issue when used domestically, however, this becomes more complex when users are asked to travel internationally on business. For example with roaming, users will typically submit additional expense claims for usage charges, which are expensive to validate and process, often include non-claimable taxes and can be of a materially higher cost than a corporate tariff. These charges are also usually approved outside of the IT team, and so these costs are excluded from IT budgets.

eSIM can effectively solve this problem by providing either short-term data connectivity for the roaming destination, or regular travellers with a permanent eSIM which can work across multiple countries when travelling on business. With a service like SureSIM Global, eSIMs can be quickly set up to support BYOD users when roaming, completely removing the need for expense claims and providing cost-effective pricing with built-in data management tools.

eSIM Use Case # 7Short-Term SIMs for Contractors

Many larger organisations issue temporary workers, contractors and third parties (e.g. consultants) with a corporate device and number. This is an expensive process and can be entirely avoided with a combination of eSIM and Mobile Application Management (MAM).

MAM provides a simple method for organisations to securely provide BYOD and third party user access to certain corporate applications such as Teams, Outlook and SharePoint on unmanaged devices. When coupled with an eSIM, businesses can provide access to corporate tools and a dedicated corporate mobile number (with or without data) for use on a temporary basis in just a few minutes, ‘Over the Air’ (OTA). Depending on requirements, the SIM can also include mobile voice recording and number retention post employment contract.

eSIM Use Case # 8 – Teams Telephony for Mobile

The vast majority of organisations have already switched to using technologies like MS Teams, Zoom, 8×8 and other Unified Communication (UC) services as their primary means of communication. Outside of the contact centre, this has meant that the need for traditional business fixed line and mobile voice calling has fallen dramatically since the start of Covid, with many internal corporate calls now being made over Teams.

When coupled with near ubiquitous mobile data coverage, it’s now possible for most users to simply communicate via the Teams application on a mobile (with or without PSTN dialling), either on a corporate or BYOD smartphone over Wi-Fi or cellular data. eSIM solutions are ideal for this data requirement, especially where they support multi-network coverage, ensuring users get the best service wherever they are located, and potentially removing the need for mobile voice services entirely.

This type of solution may also be particularly interesting for multi-national corporates, as eSIM data can be deployed generically across all countries that support Teams, meaning one solution globally for mobile.

eSIM Use Case # 9 – International Numbers for Global Execs & Workers

eSIM enables global execs and workers to easily access a second active local number and service for countries travelled to regularly. For example, a UK user that regularly travels to the USA or has USA clients, could have one UK SIM with voice, SMS and data, plus an additional USA eSIM for either voice and SMS, or optionally with data access also.

This enables the user to issue USA colleagues, clients and suppliers with a local number to call, which is more cost-effective and enables support for local services (like banking, ID, travel) that require a local number for registration.

eSIM Use Case # 10 – Private 5G Services and Access

Whilst Private 5G is a major topic in its own right, eSIM is one of the key enablers for use of Private 5G by end-users as a complementary or alternative to traditional corporate Wi-Fi and Local Area Networking. 5G Private Networks use mobile spectrum that is dedicated to an organisation for use within a certain specified area. This means it is not available for general public use by mobile networks, and to connect to the 5G radio access points and private network, users need an authorised SIM or eSIM.

Typically the ‘use cases’ for Private 5G are to extend connectivity across large areas (e.g. ports, holiday parks and campuses), and to reach areas that are hard or impossible to access with Wi-Fi using wired access points. Private 5G typically has a range and coverage of about four times that of Wi-Fi and it also supports a larger concentration of users as well as seamless network hand-off, which enables users to move around the building without loss of service. It is also inherently more secure than Wi-Fi, as it uses dedicated spectrum and mobile security protocols, instead of unmanaged Wi-Fi spectrum and security.

Wider Applications of 5G

When used as a Wi-Fi alternative, corporate users and guests can be simply provided with an eSIM (either pushed for corporate users via MDM or available as a QR code for scanning by guests) on their phone, with built in expiry dates, and optional access to the corporate network, to remove the need for VPN tunnels.

As the use case for Private 5G in corporate offices evolves, the benefits of Private 5G as a complementary technology to Wi-Fi are becoming clearer. These range from use in business continuity planning as a second network and Wi-Fi alternative, wireless cabling for LAN, enabling building management and sensors, to dedicated bandwidth and VLANS for specific services (e.g. security, CCTV). Private 5G also enables prioritisation and network slicing (bandwidth allocation), so the network can be managed to ensure that critical services and applications always have appropriate network bandwidth and performance.

Finally, for businesses that are considering a 4G/5G mobile network coverage scheme to boost mobile network signal in their corporate offices, it should be noted that there is a relatively small incremental cost to add a Private 5G installation at the same time, making this a technology to consider in many large corporate HQ’s.

 

Conclusion

eSIM is still in its relative infancy in terms of deployment in the Enterprise, with cost savings on roaming data being a clear immediate opportunity for most large and multi-national organisations. However, with a little planning, most large organisations can quickly exploit much greater value from eSIMs and supporting network services like the ones provided at Utelize Mobile with their SureSIM services.

To learn more about any of the use cases highlighted in this guide or to arrange a Discovery Call get in touch: https://mattatkinson.io/contact/

Download the CIO’s Guide to eSIM

To discover how other large organisations are leveraging eSIM to transform mobile connectivty and support, download our eSIM guide to the ‘Top 10 Use Cases for eSIM’.
Share this post
Picture of About me

About me

I’m a Founder, Investor & Consultant working with innovative businesses that help IT leaders to adopt and manage next generation networks and mobile technologies. 

Picture of About me

About me

I’m a Founder, Investor & Consultant working with innovative businesses that help IT leaders to adopt and manage next generation networks and mobile technologies.