IoT requires a variety of wireless technologies to power devices that are on the move. This strategy can get complicated when devices start moving not just across corporate campuses but between continents. Global manufacturers of IoT-enabled devices face this exact challenge: how to localize products efficiently and cost-effectively. Often IoT-enabled devices are built and tested in one region and distributed to international markets spanning across multiple continents. That means a device must be prepared to connect to different cellular networks depending on the destination to meet regulatory requirements or to achieve best price and network performance. How should manufacturers manage this given that SIM cards are network specific?

The answer used to be stocking and coordinating multiple SIM SKUs during the manufacturing process, and installing the right SIM either at manufacturing, or replacing SIMs on these devices after they are delivered to destination markets. Both solutions were complex, expensive and error prone.

SIM vs. eSIM

Connected car manufacturers have faced this problem for years and pushed for eSIM technology to solve it. An eSIM is a flexible SIM card that can be remotely reprogrammed over the air to switch to any network carrier. Install one eSIM during manufacturing and change the carrier on the fly. As manufacturers prepare for the rise of IoT-enabled products, they should look to connected car’s example and adopt eSIM. Likewise, service providers should offer eSIM options to add differentiated value for their manufacturing customers.

The benefits of eSIM

At first glance, supporting eSIMs may not appear to benefit service providers. Why would you want to make it easier for customers to leave you? The reality, however, is that global manufacturers must simplify their manufacturing cycle and future proof their business for geographic expansion. Consequently, SIM portability is often a key requirement to bid on lucrative car OEM contracts, and other IoT verticals will follow suit. eSIM capability will be table stakes for service providers to compete for the best big manufacturing customers.

The eSIM dilemma for service providers

However, while eSIM technology is very promising, building a global eSIM solution presents a major challenge for service providers. Even a solution involving a few service providers partners require a large number of integrations between several technology components from multiple vendors. Furthermore, with every new service provider added to the partnership, the number of integrations and complexity increases exponentially. These integrations are expensive to build, onerous to maintain and error prone. Before long, a service provider has a metaphorical janitor-sized ring of integration “keys” they have to manage. The stakes are high if service providers don’t staff up to manage this integration work. eSIM hand-offs can fail, creating costly delays and a sub-optimal experience for customers. Service providers have accepted this integration cost as a painful part of doing business – until now.

How Cisco can help: eSIM Flex

Figuring out the eSIM problem is important to Cisco – Cisco IoT Control Center manages the most connected car SIMs in the world. Our 50+ service provider partners rely on us to help them service these important relationships. With insights from our customers, Cisco decided to turn the approach to eSIM on its head with our new eSIM Flex service. We’ve created a cloud-based solution that harnesses technology and innovation instead of manpower to enable multi-carrier global partnerships for true global connectivity. We are the first in the market to offer all the benefits of eSIM without the integration costs or headaches.

This innovation means service providers can delight unlimited global manufacturing customers with one single solution instead of a rapidly growing integration support staff. With eSIM Flex, service providers integrate just once, and they are automatically enabled for partnerships with all other service providers without any additional integrations. For example, for a global partnership between five service providers, traditional eSIM solutions would require setting up and maintaining 55 integrations. The same partnership with our eSIM Flex solution requires only five integrations. All partnerships between operators are easily configured in the cloud and can be defined at a per customer level so that service providers get the flexibility without compromising on control. All eSIM services are offered in a user-friendly cloud portal as well as powerful APIs to integrate with global manufacturer’s supply chain systems. eSIM Flex simplifies eSIM technology for both service providers and enterprise customers, so they can effectively meet growing global business demand.

Cisco helps our partners push the envelope to meet the changing business needs of their customers. IoT device growth projections are on the rise – we will see more connected cars, meters, heavy equipment, and robots. We predict the global manufacturing community will demand simple cellular connectivity solutions en masse and we want our service providers to scale cost effectively. eSIM Flex is part of our solution.

We’re getting ready to open the next wave of trials for customers interested in these issues.
Sign up to join the  Cisco IoT Control Center eSIM Flex trials.



Ken Davidson

Director, SaaS

Cloud Security Business Unit