Microsoft’s Super Human Commitment to eSIM Technology

eSIM

eSIM technology isn’t just to do with smart phones and mobile network provisioning anymore. Soon, we will see eSIMs incorporated into laptops, according to news released from Computex 2017 (the Taipei International Information Technology Show.) The computer expo takes place each year in Taiwan. Over the last decade it has become the biggest technology and computer trade show in the world. Announcements there are a serious, costly and headline grabbing events. And this year, Microsoft used the forum to outline its plans for the “Always Connected PC.”

eSIMs are embedded or electronic SIMs. If you haven’t heard of eSIMs, it’s a piece of technology which is going to have an impact on all of our lives. It will evolve the way we use smartphones, and now, thanks to Microsoft’s support how we use our laptops. Embedded SIMS can’t be removed and are already, almost universally compatible with network carriers. This makes it easier for device owners to sign up to a network carrier wherever and whenever they want throughout the world. eSIMs will let laptops connect to 4G/LTE networks at any time. They also make it extremely easy to pick and connect to a phone plan.

Microsoft are backing the eSIM so they can restore some of the PC sales which have been lost to tablets in recent years. They want PCs to make a comeback and the eSIM is set to give their customers the assurance that PCs housing the new technology will will be constantly connected connected to the internet, wherever they are.

Together, the eSIM will create the “Always Connected PC.” and Microsoft had lined up an impressive amount of support for the concept across the industry.

The telcos are ready to sell eSIM plans for laptops.

At its keynote address at Computex , Microsoft revealed that a number of telcos are picking up the other end of the line. The famous telco list goes on for some time and includes amongst other network providers internationally : The likes of Vodafone, AT&T, 3, BT/EE, DTAG, Oberthur, T Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, Tele2, Swisscom, Gemalto, KIDDI, Gigsky, and Transatel.

Laptop partners given the go-ahead for e-SIMS

The laptop manufacturers that Microsoft now has in tow include HP, ASUS, Lenovo, Xiaomi, Huawei and VAIO. These OEMs are now revealed their commitment to releasing the eSIM technology with Windows PCs. One of the benefits of Microsoft’s eSim focus is that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can now construct devices eliminating the SIM slot safe in the knowledge everyone else in the ecosystem will be there to support them. This will save space and cost in the hardware they produce.

Microsoft also announced that they intend to use the eSIM in hardware they’re working on for the near and middle term future including VR headsets and eSIM-enabled speakers.

Chip providers and the eSIM

Microsoft’s tendrils of influence reach chip manufacturers as well as laptop and phone companies.

  • Intel : Is intending on ensuring both its current and future modems are compatible with e-SIM technology.  Intel is working closely now with Microsoft to approve eSIM-enabled always connected platforms with numerous carriers (listed above) using the Intel XMM 7260 modem and the soon to be released Intel XMM 7360.
  • ARM : The eSIM will be used in ARM-based Windows 10 PCs as well as the more mainstream x86-based PC.
  • Qualcomm : The U.S. multinational telecommunications and semiconductor equipment company, has over the years, taken on the responsibility for designing and marketing wireless telecommunications services. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset will be used on the Always Connected device platform.

What does the eSIM mean for the laptop industry

This is a significant strategy for Microsoft , according to whom, the “Always Connected PC” (an eSIM enabled laptop) is a new type of PC, similar to ‘Ultrabook’. “Always Connected PCs” have been designed to be connected by the eSIM technology and, perhaps surprisingly, it is already materialising in devices. Intel and ASUS have already unveiled an always connected PC, which has been given the name Kukuna. This is to be powered by the Intel Core processor and it’s going to have the eSIM / LTE connectivity.

From the user’s perspective, the advantages are clear. There will be no need to visit a storefront or order it online and get the SIM delivered. The eSIM will allow them to connect to a plan from settings. New plans from all the major phone networks around the globe are already becoming available.  A new range of plans from Truphone, for example let’s business travellers buy a single SIM (eSIM) plan and use it in up to 50 countries around the world for data – with no roaming fees. That’s perfect for the business laptop user.

Things will happen quickly from here. Later this year,  a number of PC manufacturers will be shipping Snapdragon 835 and Intel x86 based PCs that will include non-removable eSIMs. And, from that point, our laptops will be connected 24/7.

Lenovo is opening more doors for the traveller or for the person who likes to just sign up to the best deals from a network provider at a given point in time. It is soon to roll-out at least on its higher priced laptops a SIMless version which eliminates the need to purchase a SIM card.

What’s the current situation?

Unless you choose to go the expensive global roaming way with your home network provider when you go overseas you’ll always be on the lookout at your next overseas airport for the right SIM that fits your unlocked phone. That’s not an easy situation to deal with.

Even if your phone is unlocked it will still have to match the frequency of available providers. At times it’s often cheaper to choose your phone provider once you arrive at the overseas airport and buy one of their phones for the duration of your stay in the country. There is always some way of getting connected where and when you want it’s just the question of learning about your choices. Often of course it depends on who’s paying, meaning whether your trip is for business or pleasure.

Connect e-SIM is Lenovo’s

Lenovo is trying to match the gap in the market and is calling its new addition the Connect e-SIM feature. This will allow a seamless connection to local networks when the owner goes overseas.

Which Lenovo laptops will have e-SIM capability?

Apart from the Connect e-SIM feature Lenovo has also announced its new Miix 320. This is expected to include the e-SIM capability. The Miix 320 is one of those multi-purpose laptops with a detachable keyboard which operates on Windows 10 either using the keyboard, or detaching it and using the device as a tablet.

It has a 10.1-inch display unit which uses Windows Continuum tech. enabling it to operate either in laptop mode or tablet.

It will also have a battery life of at least 10 hours at a time and is being marketed to travellers or others who are constantly on the move. The price tag on this e-SIM compatibility unit is expected to be around $US 423.

Two other releases from Lenovo announced at the MWC are the:

  • Yoga 520
  • Yoga 720 convertible laptops.

These machines are becoming lighter and thinner than anything ever seen before and they both use the Intel Core i7 processors, which are considered to be 7th generation. A scanner for fingerprints has been included in the 520 which is great for the security minded owner.

The e-SIM Lenovo Connect technology will be included with the Miix 320 detachable when it’s soon released while the Yoga models will see the technology surface later this year.

What devices can use the Lenovo Connect e-SIM?

It will be possible for laptop users to share any plan with other connected devices, providing they have been enabled to accept the Lenovo Connect e-SIM.

The Lenovo Group’s vice- president Wang Shuai, who is also the general manager for Lenovo Connect, showcased the new featured laptops following the development of cooperation between China Unicom, as well as other Chinese and global telecom operators and the manufacturers of SIM cards. Because there is no physical SIM card present, the e-Sim can be rewritable, so the network provider can be changed as required by the user.

Shuai has revealed that users will be able to use their devices across networks, across regions, across devices, across-accounts, and also across-industries. Before the e-SIM could be finally developed and utilised, Lenovo had to wait for GSMA to come up with its standards. This took place last year which gave Lenovo the green light to both develop and market its product. Shuai is referring the development as a ‘global one stop service’.

Summary

Travellers are certainly going to gain in many countries but as yet Telstra does not support eSIM technology even devices like the Samsung Gear S2 3G. It’s imperative that a big telco like Telstra doesn’t miss the boat on taking on eSIM technology as it’s an innovative piece of much needed technology that needs listening too. With big data becoming the norm this is the time for telcos working in a competitive environment to use the eSIM technology to offer competitive pricing on large data packages.

 

Sources :

Truphone are a world leader in the provision of data plans without roaming elements, focussed on business travellers : https://www.truphone.com/au/

Engadget cover the Intel / eSIM strategy well : https://www.engadget.com/2017/05/31/intel-e-sim-modems/

Another example of a chip manufacturer implementing eSIMs is Lenovo : http://www.techrepublic.com/article/lenovo-launches-e-sim-laptops-to-keep-business-travelers-connected-internationally/

ARM, another laptop chip manufacturer is also implementing eSIM tech : http://www.eweek.com/pc-hardware/microsoft-enlists-esim-windows-10-on-arm-for-always-connected-pcs

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.