The SIM logistics challenge: Is it now time to streamline the SIM management lifecycle?

Whether via the new(er) eSIM or the traditional physical SIM (which is forecast to still be with us in large volumes for several years to come), the centrality of the SIM presents service providers with a growing logistical challenge, says Eric Hatton, head of customer acquistion & network services (CANS) business unit for Evolving Systems.

Demand for mobile data will likely double over the next 5 years which means that mobile network operators (MNOs) able to find more efficient, less costly methods of handling that growth will be at an advantage. To achieve this, they must reduce the costs of managing the SIM lifecycle end-to-end, while simultaneously providing an upgraded subscriber experience.

With increased competition in any market there invariably comes the need for greater efficiency. For an enterprise, while finding alternative sources of revenue is critical, lowering existing costs is no less important to financial success. Achieving both simultaneously presents a challenge.

In the context of SIM Logistics, my belief is that this can be best met through a digitalised, cost-effective approach to a complete SIM lifecycle management process. This is a process that runs from sales through to ordering, from distribution to provisioning, and right through to activation.

If SIM logistics can be streamlined, it will help service providers control and reduce costs associated with a variety of functions; network resource management and connections, network optimisation and SIM logistic processes, all while driving new sales through digitalised opportunities and subscriber interactions.

SIM first… the rest follows!

A SIM lifecycle begins before the SIM is activated. For example, thinking about what services are to be provisioned and what identifiers need to be resourced within the network. SIMs then need to be purchased, which then need to be shipped, distributed, and placed into the market.

The SIMs then need to be sold and activated. Driving sales is necessary too and, potentially, an expensive process because enterprises need to manage and increase the SIM supply chain while simultaneously reducing their costs.

Efficiencies can be gained by deploying new sales upgrade tactics like self-service secure SIM swapping, activating new services in real-time by assigning MSISDNs and other associated resources at the time of first use, and designing new initiatives to target dormant SIMs.

The SIM lifecycle begins with resource management which would include IMEIs, MSISDNs, IMSIs and ICCIDs. When a SIM-using enterprise goes to market, these resources need to be set up and loaded onto the network somewhere in a ready state; this is the case if dynamic SIM activation or pre-activation are being considered.

Placing an order with the multiple SIM manufactures and streamlining the SIM ordering process is the next stage in the SIM lifecycle. Standardising the ongoing ordering process with the manufacturers and understanding when an order should be placed is crucial, as SIMs are sold at different times throughout the year.

SIMs are then distributed and sent through to a warehouse or storage location, and that’s when an enterprise resells the SIMs. The seller will require an end-to-end system to track their entire distribution process, from the SIM vendor, right through to the storage location, into distributor systems then into the market. This is a topic that we are seeing become very popular through Industry 4.0.

Engagement and monetisation

Enabling the digital sales channel and providing service providers with the ability to engage and monetise their dealer network and subscribers is the next lifecycle stage. There is a need for a truly flexible digital salesforce, which enables dealers to interact with their subscribers across all their products and services with a single mobile point of sale tool wherever they are located.

This can help provide visibility of dealer performance and in turn drastically reduce costs, which is vital to the selling process. In addition, the sales activities can feed back into the distribution and ordering functions, enabling just-in-time logistics, furthering cost reduction and competitiveness.

If enforced by regulation, Know Your Customer (KYC) registration and the ability to capture details of the subscriber will be essential. For post-paid there might be processes in place already for credit purposes, but for pre-paid, capturing subscriber fingerprints, digital IDs and signature and other biometric information may be required. While KYC is important, pushing promotions and campaigns to individual dealers will enable further differentiation at the point of sale.

Post-sale it is possible to continue the cost reduction when you are activating the service, by deferring the assignment of MSISDNs and IMSIs until the SIM is sold. Assigning these resources at the point of activation, in real-time, enables any SIM type to be used for any offer and to reduce MSISDN utilisation to live subscribers only, ultimately saving on network resources.

MNOs should prioritise now and address the SIM lifecyle opportunity

Enterprises have many departments and associated requirements. Getting all the stakeholders aligned to help reduce costs for resource management, report on regulatory requirements, achieve efficient logistics, provision effectively, activate successfully, sell competitively and subsequently recycle resources is a big task.

Peering into the live network, tracking the entire SIM lifecycle, and automating manual tasks, is key to being successful in this challenging market and is at the heart of Industry 4.0.

The author is Eric Hatton, head of customer acquistion & network services (CANS) business unit for Evolving Systems.