In October 2013, GSMA which is the mobile network operators' trade body worldwide, revealed it was developing a new kind of SIM that could be soldered in place and then programmed to connect to a chosen carrier remotely. GSMA called this the embedded SIM, or eSIM for short, which has the potential for several "connected" devices like smartwatches, smartphones, homes -- and cars.
Several automakers came forward to back this move, like General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Renault Nissan, Scania and Volvo Cars.
The Cloud-connected virtual eSIMs would enable automakers remotely provision connectivity over the air to vehicles with an operator of their choice.
These were to deliver a range of in-vehicle services such as infotainment, real-time navigation, insurance and breakdown services, as well as telematics and remote diagnostics.
Hyundai has come with an inbuilt Vodafone-Idea eSIM card for its compact SUV called Venue. The SUV does not need the user's smartphone to connect to a plethora of options like entertainment, navigation and emergency response etc.
MG Motors has entered the race with an SUV named Hector. It is supposed to launch in India in the latter half of the year.
How does an eSIM work and what does it offer?
There has been a slot for standard SIM cards available in some cars but it always had disadvantages like high and low temperatures within cars, exposure to different weather conditions, corrosion and constant vibration from the engine and road conditions.
Standard SIMs can also only connect to a single network at a time, reports whatphone.com.
eSIMs address many of these problems as they are directly soldered into the car making them more secure and resistant to the adverse conditions within vehicles.
The car owners can swap between networks and use the eSIM for different purposes without having to change cards.
"With embedded LTE solutions, car manufacturers can offer high-speed, low latency connectivity and a suite of advanced services and features that enhance 'on the road' experiences for both drivers and passengers," the cybersecurity firm Gemalto wrote in a blog post.
Users can enjoy simultaneous embedded voice and data services, allowing one passenger to search online for the best nearby restaurant while another passenger calls for a reservation.
Embedded eSIMs identify individual vehicles, encrypt communications and ensure secure global connectivity for smart vehicle systems including eCall emergency solutions, vehicle telematics, navigation and more.
eSIMs have already been chosen by the European Commission to form a part of in-car emergency call systems.
This means all cars manufactured from 2018 were required to have an eSIM that can perform emergency functions, especially in relation to breakdowns and crashes via machine-to-machine (M2M) communication technology.
"In the future, secure Cloud-based service enablement and next-generation features such as secure ID-based ignition, integrated NFC and mobile wallet applications will further contribute to convenience for drivers and passengers," Gemalto added.
According to GSMA, eSIMs would help car manufacturers offer any type of in-car connected service through a single SIM, which can be provisioned with the profile of a mobile operator once the car is shipped, as well as at the end of a contract -- without the SIM needs to be changed.