My journey in the telecommunication industry started 30 years ago when I joined the Israel Defense Forces, in a special unit where I developed end-to-end, resilient solutions for mission-critical communications.
At Nortel, I built the first cellular network and implemented the only multiplexing solution outside the United States. Then, at Pelephone, I engineered new technologies and capabilities to optimize the company’s network while reducing dependency on other vendors.
In 1998, I realized that a pre-paid solution was the only way to increase the penetration of cellular service in emerging markets. I started a company around the concept, and in just a few years, we grew from a startup to over 25 operators worldwide. The company was very profitable, and Amdocs acquired it in 2007.
As I joined Amdocs as the general manager of the network business unit, I saw great opportunities and recognized new challenges.
To take any business idea off the ground, we must demonstrate that it has the potential to move the needle—and it’s a big and heavy one. Then, the new initiative must create synergy with Amdocs' existing technologies, expertise, customer base, etc. Lastly, it must help Amdocs differentiate itself as the market leader.
Not only did I have to connect the dots and meet all three criteria, but I also had to hit milestones and numbers. I couldn’t afford to dabble on disparate small pieces—I had to identify big, complex, “mega” topics that would yield game-changing results.
Our story of the eSIM (Embedded Subscriber Identity Module) revolution started when I came across a white paper published by Apple. I recognized that it’s the direction for cellular to flourish—and we embarked on a long, structured process to bring it to fruition.
From SIM to eSIM: Revolutionizing connectivity
We’re familiar with how SIM cards work, but the logistics of getting the physical plastic and switching it every time you want to change service providers (e.g., when you travel to a foreign country) is cumbersome and frustrating.
In fact, this is the only digital service with which after paying for your subscription, you have to wait a few days for a SIM card to arrive before you can use the service. So why can’t we bring the experience on par with what consumers expect of other digital services?
That’s what eSIM does—instead of switching out the physical piece of plastic inside your phone, you can change your service provider by having the eSIM reprogrammed over the air.
eSIM is the key to modernizing the telecommunication experience to meet consumer expectations in the digital age.
Ushering in this new concept isn’t easy—it didn’t even exist when we first came up with the idea. It’s a theoretical market, and we had to create hypotheses around the practical implementation—what were the issues we needed to solve, and how could we design a product that solves these theoretical problems? We had to define everything from the ground up.
Our persistence paid off. Today, Amdocs has the most advanced eSIM technologies in the field. We have a 360-degree understanding of the complexity and requirements to turn this concept into reality. We have already addressed many topics around manufacturing and standardization that the market is just beginning to recognize.
"5G and cloud computing has created the perfect backdrop for eSIM adoption—not only for telecommunication but for everything IoT."
The condition is ripe for eSIM adoption
Even though cellular is by far more reliable and secure than WiFi, Bluetooth, or other short-range technologies, we still needed to solve some critical issues in implementation and adoption when we embarked on this journey.
First, we must overcome the cost of connectivity. We can now solve this challenge with 5G, which opens all the dark pipes, allowing us to handle data in ways we couldn’t in the past.
Then, we needed to address battery life issues. The good news is that we can get an IoT device to work continuously for almost a decade without replacing the battery using 5G technologies. Lastly, we have to figure out what to do with the data generated by the widespread connectivity. Thanks to the emergence of various cloud technologies (e.g. data lakes) we can now monetize information cost-effectively.
5G and cloud computing have created the perfect backdrop for eSIM adoption—not only for telecommunication but for everything IoT. Let’s say a medical equipment manufacturer wants to add functionalities (e.g., value-add services, nutrition recommendations) to a device. Today, it must send the equipment to a warehouse, open it, add hardware, close it, and ship it back to the customer.
But with eSIM, the manufacturer can add services and features remotely and instantly. Customers can change their subscriptions on a dime without the cumbersome process of handling hardware—just like they can with services like video streaming.
Users can access multiple digital profiles and service plans and switch from one to another instantly with the same device, depending on where they are and what they want to do.
eSIM will allow telco companies to deliver unique and instant digital experiences consumers expect from other service providers. By removing the logistics of handling physical SIM cards, you can reach customers worldwide through digital channels at a lower cost.
What eSIM adoption means for Telcos
The convenience and cost-saving benefits of eSIM go beyond cell phones—it’ll change how we interact with other electronic devices. By making it possible to apply cellular connectivity to all consumer electronic devices, eSIM, supported by 5G and private networks, will give the cord-cutting trend what it needs to take the leap.
eSIM is a revolutionary, not evolutionary, technology. Telcos must consider eSIM adoption in the context of the entire ecosystem—for example, Amdocs’ technologies deliver end-to-end experiences, spanning from how a user interacts with a device all the way to customer support, billing, and network.
The shift will change how telcos do business today—eSIM is a different technology, and you need new strategies and processes to support its implementation.
Standards on manufacturers, device types, or operating systems no longer matter. New considerations will revolve around how we transfer digital profiles among different devices to create a seamless user flow. Operators must deliver capabilities on par with plastic SIM cards while creating an intuitive, simple, flexible, and functional experience.
While Apple and Google work side by side with operators, telcos are ultimately responsible for the customer relationships. Service providers must develop their own experiences in parallel to differentiate their offerings.
For example, consumers want to manage everything via a simple phone call or chat conversation, and not have to spend hours in a store to install and activate a tiny piece of plastic. You must equip your call center with the tools and capabilities to push updates and features to your customers’ devices over the air—just like other digital services.
However, connecting the dots among all the networks, providers, devices, touchpoints, etc., is easier said than done. Telcos must navigate a spaghetti of legacy infrastructure, complexities, processes, and experiences to support eSIM adoption with new business processes. Simply put, you need to deliver “one-click” activation, not 25 clicks.
Such simplicity is what Amdocs focuses on—we abstract the complexity from operators as a base element, then add unique capabilities so you can create an end-to-end experience regardless of devices, operating systems, touchpoints, lines of business, etc.
eSIM adoption must consider the entire ecosystem. Amdocs is aligning the technology with the rest of our portfolio so our clients can develop a holistic customer experience that meets evolving market expectations.
eSIM: The time is now
Today, we’re just scratching the surface of eSIM’s vast potential. Subscription has become fluid, and access can be adjusted on the fly to deliver the best experience at the right time. It has the flexibility to be updated with capabilities to support endless use cases.
Apple prepared for the trend by making room for eSIM technology in iPhone XS, phasing out the physical SIM card in iPhone 13, and switching to eSIM-only for iPhone 14. We all know what happens when Apple makes a move.
The writing is on the wall.
The time is now to hop onto the eSIM bandwagon if you want to control customer relationships, deliver the best end-to-end experience, drive revenue with value-added services, and differentiate yourselves in the market.