The Information Technologies and Communication Authority in Turkey published two decisions regulating embedded SIM technologies that have generated a buzz in the country, especially the SIM card localization requirement for e-call systems, which prevent permanent roaming, in vehicles. The country’s automotive industry has been the most affected by the decisions as they have effectively prevented new vehicles from being imported into the country.
The first decision regulates e-call services in vehicles, and the second regulates remote programmable eSIM technologies. Although the first decision did not include machine-to-machine devices, the 2019 decision has turned out to be a game-changer, as it strictly requires localization of data storage and eSIMs to be used in the devices regardless of the aim and type of communication activity for all devices that use eSIM technology. The regulation set a Feb. 29 deadline for operators to comply with the localization requirements. The BTK has reserved the right to deactivate all devices operating within Turkish borders that fail to comply with the decision.
Impact on eSIM technologies
The first decision has had the biggest impact on the automotive industry in Turkey. Type Approval in Relation to the Deployment of the 112 the Setup of In-vehicle 112 Emergency Call Service Based In-Vehicle Emergency Call (in Turkish) went into force March 31, 2018, and stipulates all cars subject to the regulation must provide e-call services, but the situation has turned into a crisis for the automotive industry. The joint interpretation of the decisions and regulation reveals that newer cars must provide e-call services and carry local eSIM cards and store all relevant data in Turkey. Major automotive producers have mostly chosen to shut down e-call services for cars already in the marketplace and therefore do not fall under the scope of the regulation. However, they cannot import newer cars subject to the regulation as they already have foreign eSIMs. Some companies have found a temporary solution to this crisis and are working with local operators to comply with the decision for some of their most popular models, although these efforts require a vast change in production chains. Still, this situation remains unsolved for most parties.
On the other hand, the second decision requires localization of not only the eSIMs used in cars, but also in all devices, including the ones that are only used with the aim of M2M communication.
Impact on M2M communication technologies
The BTK’s approach to M2M communication services in its 2019 decision is even more tangled since it affects not only cars, but also all devices subject to electronic communication. Although the first decision excludes M2M communications, the second one includes all types of eSIM-based services. While M2M communications are not evaluated as a way of electronic communication between humans by the global regulation trend, the BTK’s decision seems to interpret that all M2M services are within the same scope as human-to-human communication services. This has led to the question of if it is possible to either localize or shut down all services using non-local eSIM technologies. Considering the number of devices carrying embedded SIMs for M2M communications in Turkey, many of which were offered for sale well before compliance deadline determine by the relevant legislation, a number of parties argue the second decision requires a clarification on M2M services and communication.
Despite the fact Turkish lawmakers and the BTK claim to follow the EU approach on the issue, EU regulators seem to interpret the situation entirely different. The implementation report published by the European Parliament that examines the impacts of the EU’s Roaming Regulation “Roam Like at Home” indicates some of the mobile network operators in the EU have expressed their concerns claiming the national networks were dimensioned for domestic SIM cards and an increase in foreign SIM cards for M2M might produce capacity problems. However, the report denies the possible problems stating M2M networks exploit low-volume data communications for signaling and that M2M communication is deemed to be necessary and must be supported for the sake of better living standards. As it can be seen in the report, EU regulators do not share the restrictive approach on the issue as Turkey does.
The BTK has reflected its intention numerous times to regulate M2M technologies operating in Turkey. However, we think these decisions need further clarification. It is now clear that permanent roaming in Turkey is not allowed. Devices brought to Turkey have 120 days to use international roaming, but how such a restriction and localization requirements will work on M2M technologies in practice is not yet clear and very well understood.
Special thanks to Muhammed Demircan for his contributions.