What is an iSIM?

What is an iSIM? What are its advantages and how is it different from eSIMs?

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- everything RF

Sep 11, 2021

An iSIM (Integrated SIM) is a system-on-a-chip (SOC) architecture that integrates SIM functionalities with an existing, onboard processor and cellular modem. iSIM uses the same over-the-air remote SIM provisioning solution (RSP) as eSIMs through which authorized users can access and update profiles and other data on the iSIM and remotely manage profiles to change network settings. However, iSIMs amplify and extend the qualities of an eSIM, while also eliminating some of the shortcomings of eSIMs.

Though eSIMs are permanently embedded/soldered onto devices, are still separate chips and require additional components for their functioning. The main advantage and difference with iSIM’s is that it moves SIM functionality into the chipset. Thus iSIMs do need supporting components and do no take up additional space for integration. iSIM bring down the space taken by SIMs/eSIMs from millimeters to fractions of a millimeter (since it is integrated into the SoC). They are also more secure as its functionality is integrated in to the device at the chipset level and can have an additional layer of authentication. This is especially beneficial for payments, identity and critical infrastructure applications.

Since iSIM devices require fewer components, they cost less to build. On a per-unit basis, iSIM’s cost advantage may be small. But when an organization purchases hundreds of thousands of IoT devices at a time, those small cost reductions can result in significant savings. iSIM’s cost advantage becomes more important considering the growing market for IoT devices—which in order to be practical, must be very small, reliable, and inexpensive. By incorporating the SIM operating system into the cellular module hardware, the iSIM provides a way for industries to enable typical coverage with efficient data and energy consumption.

iSIM technology is still new and not yet standardized. Most iSIM devices cannot be certified adequately with existing SIM accreditations as of now, but this changing. Another existing problem with iSIM security is that in today’s cellular IoT market, the device hardware companies that can manufacture iSIMs are not GSMA certified, which creates bottlenecks in the production process. Solutions to this logistical problem are emerging, but iSIM production for IoT remains slow at the moment.

Click here to learn more about eSIMs.