LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 MIDDLE EAST: Etisalat, the largest operator in the United Arab Emirates, is among a number of global tier one operators to have today confirmed support for the GSMA’s Embedded SIM specification.

The Middle East carrier is joined by NTT Docomo, Telefonica and Vodafone Group; all four operators claim to have launched products compatible with the spec. US number two operator AT&T has previously been credited as being the first US operator to launch a SIM that is compliant with the machine-to-machine (M2M) focused technical specification.

The idea behind the technical specification – published at the end of last year – is to allow secure over-the-air operator management of M2M services. Some M2M devices are often hermetically sealed, such as in the connected car or smart meters, meaning it is not physically possible to change the SIM in the event of a change of subscription from one operator to another. Essentially, it allows for the use of multiple operator profiles on a single SIM while eliminating the need for each operator to develop their own technical solution for the remote provisioning of their SIMs.

The GSMA claims that the initiative has huge potential. Citing a new report from Beecham Research titled, ‘Benefits Analysis of GSMA Embedded SIM Specification on the Mobile Enabled M2M Industry’, the industry association argues the immediate adoption and deployment of the GSMA Embedded SIM specification will accelerate the growth of the embedded M2M market by up to 34 per cent by 2020. This is claimed to generate approximately $8.9 billion in connectivity revenues for mobile operators in 2020 alone.

In an apparent effort to encourage more operators to come on board (and move away from any proprietary strategy), the GSMA goes on to state that Beecham’s report estimates that the embedded M2M SIM connection market could reach 639 million connections globally – up from approximately 478 million by 2020 – if the GSMA technical specification is adopted as the de facto standard during 2014-15.

The GSMA’s view is that all parties in the M2M ecosystem will struggle if the industry remains solely dependent upon the traditional SIM card, which is predicated on only associating with one network operator.

A press release from the GSMA said the operators are joined by SIM and module manufacturers Gemalto, Giesecke & Devrient, Morpho (Safran), Oberthur Technologies, Sierra Wireless and Telit, all of which have “launched solutions compliant with the GSMA Embedded SIM specification for the remote ‘over the air’ provisioning of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices.”

Internet-of-Things players Ericsson, Jasper and Telenor Connexion have also committed to launch, while “additional” (but unnamed) operators are prepping launch. At the end of last year the GSMA named China Mobile, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia and Telenor as operators who also backed the Embedded SIM project.