SIM v. eSIM: A Study on Environmentally Friendly SIM Solutions

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

November 30, 2022


SIM v. eSIM: A Study on Environmentally Friendly SIM Solutions

Munich– A recent GSMA Report 1 revealed that out of 88 countries there 260 mobile operators currently providing commercial eSIM services for smartphones, with the expectation that 76% of all smartphone connectivity services will be eSIM-enabled by 2030.

An independent comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Fraunhofer IZM, an institute for applied research and the development and system integration of robust and reliable electronics, concludes that the embedded SIM (eSIM) is an environmentally friendly solution when examined against all environmental impact categories.

The LCA results overall determined lower CO2 emissions where the two formats showed a 46 percent decrease in emissions for the eSIM when compared to the SIM card, an equivalent of 123g CO2 versus an equivalent of 229g CO2.

"The results of the study show the environmentally friendly potential of the eSIM as a connectivity solution," confirms David Sanchez, research associate at Fraunhofer IZM. "Particularly noteworthy here is the savings potential in CO2 emissions by reducing the necessary distribution and additional hardware of the eSIM solution compared to the SIM card."

Throughout varied stages of the life cycle, the differences between the SIM and eSIM showed that for the SIM card 59% of emissions took place during production (upstream) and 41% of emissions took place during transport and use (downstream). For the eSIM, 2% of emissions took place during production with the remaining 98% accounts for downstream, more specifically, when the eSIM chip is installed in a mobile device by the OEM.

The study tested the environment impact of one SIM card and one eSIM during authentication on a single mobile network, testing the functionality of both over 3 years, which is the equivalent of the average service life of a smartphone.

"The independent study underlines the importance of the eSIM for responsible mobile communications. Mobile operators and users can thus significantly reduce their CO2 emissions by using cutting-edge technology. The results of the study serve as a starting point for us to analyse and further evaluate the entire SIM card ecosystem in terms of sustainability," explains Jan Bock, Head of Operations in G+D's Connectivity and IoT Business. "We have already converted the majority of our data centers and production facilities to renewable energy in order to achieve our Net Zero goal and to be able to offer customers low-emission or even CO2-neutral products.”

The LCA surveyed the raw materials and production materials, transport routes, the use phase of the products through to disposal, and the end device components for SIM functionality (SIM tray, SIM connector, additional PCB area and SIM power supply).

The study was performed for Giesecke+Devrient‘s (G+D), a global security technology provider headquartered in Munich, Germany, who has plans to make environmentally friendly technology the focal point of their security solutions. With experience in applied and industrial contract research, both G+D and Fraunhofer IZM led the LCA in compliance with ISO standard 14040/14044 and utilized an external review panel.

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Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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