Dr. Frank Oberhokamp, our expert on eUICCs and remote SIM provisioning, talks about the importance and the risk of insufficient testing.
What are tearing tests and why are they so vital in the eUICC ecosystem?
Dr. Frank Oberhokamp (FO): In the eUICC ecosystem, tearing tests are of great importance for the remote SIM provisioning process. They focus on ensuring that the provisioning process continues to work properly even after an unexpected power cut.
Up to now, in the traditional SIM world, a card with problems can be easily removed, repaired or – if repair is not possible – replaced by a new one.
With the eSIM, new entities and processes are introduced. Once permanently soldered into a device such as a mobile phone, car, wind wheel, or even a refrigerator, the card is not removable anymore. That means the card profile – in particular the operator subscription – can only be changed over the air. Profile management processes, like downloading, changing, or deleting of card profiles, play a very important role.
What can happen after an unexpected power loss during the remote provisioning process?
FO: Let’s imagine a large premium car manufacturer. Its complete fleet is already equipped with eUICCs and connected to the network via mobile network operator A. If the car manufacturer now decides to change to operator B, the subscription of all vehicles in the field must be changed over the air.
Let’s assume that the preparation and the download of the new profiles via the back-end servers went without any problems, so that the new profile is stored on the eUICC. Now it’s getting critical. To activate this new profile, some important processes have to take place on the eUICC. The old eUICC profile needs to be deactivated and the new one activated. If, in the middle of this switching process, an unexpected power loss occurs, the new profile might in fact be enabled, whereas the activation process has not been finalized successfully. This would leave the eUICC not working correctly. Thus, the eUICC in the car is lost for the MNO and of course also for the car manufacturer. Consequently, the car manufacturer has to replace the permanently soldered M2M component. This has to happen in a garage as not only the small eUICC but also the complete M2M module must be exchanged. Having in mind that in the near future millions of cars will be equipped with cellular connectivity, manufacturers could face very tedious, complicated, and costly product recalls. Such a scenario can of course be applied to other M2M business areas like vending machines, traffic lights, smart meters, etc.
Even more critical could be the loss of an eUICC used for eCall (the upcoming European car emergency system) or in a health device. A failure in these systems would be life-threatening. This raises questions about follow-up costs and product liability.
Does this also apply to the field of consumer devices?
FO: Yes, of course! The loss of devices could also affect the consumer business. Despite the possibility to access the eUICC by other means (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.), it can happen that the end user cannot reactivate the eUICC. In some cases, repair might be possible for service engineers. But this is also a tedious process, success is not guaranteed, and the device could still be lost.
Moreover, and this encompasses both realms – consumer devices as well as M2M – if these new ecosystems and their processes do not work reliably, the consumers’ trust in the new technology will be severely shaken.
What can the industry do to prevent the loss of devices?
FO: The answer is simple: sufficient testing!
A start has been made, as the GSMA specification demands that a device must not get lost. One important prerequisite to make sure that a power loss doesn’t lead to a lost device, is testing the remote SIM provisioning process in all its variants intensively.
At COMPRION we are aware of this necessity and have already prepared corresponding testing concepts.
Are tearing tests in your scope? Talk to our experts to push this topic forward.
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Learn more about our eUICC test solutions covering other testing challenges of the ecosystem:
Dr. Frank Oberhokamp works as Product Manager for eUICC Consumer Devices at COMPRION. Based on more than 20 years’ experience in the smart card industry, he is a proven expert for eSIMs and the related remote SIM provisioning process.
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