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eSIM for cars: Unlimited connection!

eSIM for connected cars is at its best. In this post, we tell you what it is about, and also the advantages, disadvantages, opportunities, and much more!

Carolina S.

March 28, 2023

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The eSIM technology for connected cars is going through its prime. The progressive replacement of physical SIM cards opens a window of opportunity for the automotive industry, telecommunications carriers, and end users, allowing the automatic connection of cars with a cellular network, regardless of the country or cellphone provider.

In this post, we will talk about this key technology for the future of smart cars. What it is, how it works, compatibility of brands and cellular providers, advantages, disadvantages, and the opportunities that exist for the market.

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What is eSIM for connected cars?

The eSIM is a chip built into your car. Unlike the removable physical SIM card, the eSIM is not tied to a specific country or cellular phone provider.

On the contrary, it supports multiple eSIM profiles, associated with one or more cellphone subscriptions, with domestic and foreign providers. In fact, there are already car models, like the BMW iX and BMW i4, with a dual eSIM card to manage them simultaneously.

eSIM technology for connected cars

The demand for smart cars with access to the internet is becoming increasingly relevant among consumers. In this sense, eSIM technology plays a fundamental role, since this small chip allows the integration of multiple devices. In turn, it provides access to the data network through the vehicle.

Impact of eSIM technology on always-on connectivity

eSIM technology for connected cars / Image: Freepik

Certainly, you can see the impact of eSIM technology in terms of savings and time. For example, manufacturers would no longer have to stack large numbers of SIM cards, thus simplifying their production chain.

Meanwhile, cellular providers will be responsible for giving connectivity to cars and access to all aforementioned services, and assistance for the driver and the passengers, thanks to this technology. 

And, as for the customer or end-user, eSIM technology will benefit the connectivity experience on board. It will have always-on connectivity, flexibility to change providers, ease of use, and increased security, among other aspects.

Advantages of eSIM in connected cars

  • Always-on connectivity in the vehicle
  • Secure WiFi hotspot (provides TLS-encrypted connections)
  • 5G network compatibility
  • Appropriateness of the eSIM to comply with the road and telecommunications regulations of each country
  • Simplified logistics processes for manufacturers
  • Greater security, avoiding theft, loss, or damage of the inbuilt SIM
  • Access to different features and digital services
  • Information storage in the cloud

Disadvantages of eSIM in connected cars

So far, we know that high-end vehicles are compatible with a 5G SIM or eSIM. However, experts predict that the number of compatible cars will grow exponentially in the coming years.

How does eSIM technology for cars work?

The eSIM for cars works just like a conventional SIM card, only without using a plastic chip. As we have mentioned before, it’s a chip that is inbuilt into the car’s connection system. Thus, it will be able to connect to a cellular network and provide internet and voice services according to the cellphone plan that the user is subscribed to.

There are two connectivity options for the car:

Synchronizing the eSIM of the smartphone with the car
Activating an eSIM with exclusive voice and data for the car

How is eSIM activated in cars?

Each manufacturer defines the connectivity platforms for the user. For example, BMW has the My BMW App, an exclusive platform of the brand for its customers. In it, users can choose an eSIM-compatible cellphone provider for their vehicle.

Once the users have defined the voice and data plan with a cell phone company, they can also use the app to activate the eSIM. In this case, the user will receive instructions with simple steps to carry out this process.

After the successful activation, the driver and the passengers will be able to enjoy the features of assisted driving, and infotainment services, offered by the cellular carrier.

The role of eSIM in car safety

Another key point is that all cars circulating in the European Union are required to have a built-in SIM or eSIM card to guarantee the operation of the emergency call system, called e-Call.

This means that the features of the eSIM go beyond comfort and entertainment. With this built-in chip, automobile manufacturers comply with the requirements of the vehicle’s telematics system for the timely assistance of the passengers in the event of an emergency.

How does the eSIM work in case of an emergency?

The emergency system for cars works with an eSIM / Imagen: Stiftung Warentest

At least in the European Union, the automatic emergency call system “e-Call” is mandatory for all new cars since March 2018. 

For its operation, the car must have a sensor system and a SIM or eSIM card. When a serious traffic accident occurs, the car’s airbags are activated and it’s at that moment that a free call is made to the European Union’s emergency line.

This call can be made manually by pressing an SOS button. The car’s telematics system will send information on the exact location, type of vehicle, and data to the authorities to act promptly. 

In countries such as Russia, Brazil, China, Turkey, India, and the United Arab Emirates, these types of regulations are already being announced, considering the specificities of each country.

Cars connected with eSIM

Example of luxury cars with eSIM / Image: BMW Mexico

Here is a list of some car brands that have inbuilt eSIM technologyBMW, Audi, Volkswagen, SEAT, FIAT, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Tesla, Toyota, Jaguar, Jeep, Land Rover, Maserati, Chevrolet, among others.

In many countries, eSIM has already been built into cars for a long time. However, with the boom on the Internet of Things and connected cars, eSIM has become a business opportunity for car manufacturers and telecommunications companies.

Mobile providers that support eSIM technology

Important to realize that eSIMs for cars are incompatible with all vehicle brands, or smartphones, or cellular providers in each country. That is why it’s essential to verify this information before making any final purchase decision.

In this link, you’ll know the List of eSIM carriers that support eSIM for cellular devices. You’ll have a guide to the cellular carriers in your country that can provide exclusive talk-time and data plans for your car. Remember that this also depends on the model and year of the car.

eSIM opportunities for the future of connected cars

Undoubtedly, the adoption of eSIM technology for connected cars will contribute soon to the creation of increasingly customized digital services. This will undoubtedly bring multiple advantages. In other words, they will:

  • Bring enhanced connectivity experiences
  • Increase security and data protection
  • Comply with the regulations of each country
  • Offer highly customized experiences
  • Allow software updates in real-time

And, in general, provide advantages that will help strengthen trust between brands and their customers.