PARTNER INTERVIEW: With eSIM subscriptions set to become the standard in the coming years, telecom operators are increasingly looking to ease users towards a complete digital journey.

A central part of this process is the use of Root Discovery Services to allow one click subscription downloads. Here Mobile World Live speaks to Thales’ marketing manager for connectivity solutions Fabiola Frantzis (pictured) about this technology and how it can benefit telecom operators.

Mobile World Live: What advantages does the Root Discovery Service offer to the market?
Fabiola Frantzis (FF): Root Discovery Service (discovery service) is a way to download subscriptions into consumer devices which have eSIM functionality as an alternative to existing methods such using QR codes.

It was designed as a universal service across providers, so when an OEM implements this feature in a device they can have peace of mind it will be compatible with any operator in any market supporting the service. This eliminates the need for separate integration processes with each telecom operator to download subscriptions.

The telecom operator can also be assured they will be able to download subscriptions to any compatible device, reducing integration efforts and cutting time spent onboarding.

In terms of experience for the end user, it’s a very intuitive system. A few seconds after powering on the device they are served with a notification to download a subscription, allowing them to get started in a single click.

A discovery service is also a good option for IoT devices, which can be constrained because they are often small and don’t have a way to scan a QR code. With this new method, these IoT devices can be issued with profiles without needing a camera, interface or the capability to download an application.

What is the status of this technology in the market and how are current consumer and enterprise trends likely to impact this?
In the market today there are two different discovery services being offered.

One was launched commercially by the GSMA powered by Thales technology in 2020, having been used in pilots since 2017. The idea is for the entire mobile ecosystem to use it, ensuring all operators and device makers can rely on interoperable systems.

This platform has been out there commercially for a few months and, although we are definitely still in the early days, there are already tier-one telecom operators using it commercially. These early adopters are mostly in North America and Europe, but there are many others waiting for an increased number of compatible devices to become available then they will introduce this method.

In the meantime, operators are continuing to use current provisioning technologies, typically this is a QR code or carrier app.

Further operator adoption will come as device makers increase their compatibility with the technology. Bit-by-bit, as OEMs continue to launch devices and as tier-one telecom operators support the service, the rest of the market will get on board.

Telecom operators wanting to support devices from this brand need to be prepared to use the OEM’s service, while using the GSMA’s version for the rest of their devices. Without an adequate solution in place, this can be a challenge.

However, with the right solution this provides telecom operators with a competitive advantage as they can maximise the reach of eSIM capable devices in the market and better service their customers.

How does this new method of provisioning change the user experience and how does this differ from alternatives and previously used methods?
Currently a QR code is the most common way of downloading eSIM subscriptions. This system works well and requires users to scan a code but, while this is very effective, use of a discovery service offers the customer a one click journey and also widens the types of devices able to be on-boarded to include those unable to scan a code.

With a discovery service the user can either submit their eUICC Identifier (EID) or the telecom operator scans it from the box of device to download the subscription.

Telecom operators today are very focused on developing digital channels for customers, they want to offer a way for them to purchase a subscription and just start using it.

Both a QR code and discovery service offer this digital journey, but the difference is that when the operator is reliant on a physical QR code they will have to ship or deliver the physical code to the end user. This could create a delay of a few days before the customer can start using the subscription.

However, using a digital QR code or discovery service, a subscription download can be activated right away. This is a big change to the user experience and allows the process to take place in one click. Importantly this is another tool in operators’ armory of flexible options to get customers started.

Could this technology be used also in IoT devices, and if so, how does its application change the way connectivity can be provisioned here?
This solution can certainly be used for IoT devices.

The big trend we’re seeing in the IoT market is device makers and other players moving to the use of consumer specifications rather than M2M eSIM protocols for deployments. This is partly as they consider existing M2M specifications to be a bit costly and complex for their market.

Although the consumer specification doesn’t cover the complete needs of the IoT market (for example it doesn’t allow for pushing a profile into the device), we expect this to be used as a temporary measure before migrating to specifications currently being developed by the GSMA for IoT.

In the IoT specification that’s currently being defined, the discovery service is being proposed as one of the standard methods for downloading subscriptions.

What does Thales offer in this market and what are your key competitive advantages here?
Thales is very experienced in the eSIM subscription management market. We have deployed more than 200 platforms worldwide and we are also the ones providing the discovery service to the GSMA so the operators using it are already using a Thales platform.

Based on this we have built Thales SMDS Connect, a service for operators wanting to support all current discovery services and future releases. It reduces effort for telecom operators as it avoids the need for them to make changes in their IT system each time they want to support a new discovery service, and from knowing which discovery service to use for each profile download.

Currently, as previously discussed, there are two discovery services being used. Without the Thales offer telecom operators would have to make changes into their internal system to be able to download subscriptions to both.

Our service is like an intelligent router able to identify the request for a downloadable subscription, simplifying things for the service provider which only needs to modify their IT system once. From that moment Thales will deal with integration with each OEM or enterprise launching their own discovery service. Thales intelligent router will route each profile download request to the correct discovery service.

This means a shorter time to market for the telecom operator, fewer integration costs and peace of mind that the operator is able to download a subscription into any device using any discovery service.

We also offer private SMDS for any OEM or any telecom operator which wants to have their own discovery service. Thales is already providing this and is able to supply to any other player wanting a private system.

With these offers we are covering all market needs in relation to eSIM Discovery Services and allow operators to stay ahead of the curve in enabling users to quickly download digital subscriptions to their devices.

For further information on Thales’ solutions please see below:
Thales SMDS Connect: maximising the reach of eSIM capable devices and eSIM activation

Root Subscription Management Discovery Service

Thales eSIM Solutions: accelerating digital transformation for Mobile Network Operators

Thales Trusted Digital Telco: enabling Communications Service Providers to deliver a 100% digital and intuitive customer experience