Blog article

SIM Management Is Key

24 Feb 2021


With mobile ecosystems rapidly evolving, challenges and opportunities are being presented at equal pace. Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) accumulating a raft of new applications central to delivering advanced networks is now a commonplace strategy; the result being that remote SIM configuration has become not only important, but also more challenging to achieve.

Solving the problem is essential for enabling seamless updates via the Short Message Service (SMS) or IP-based protocols. Getting this process right helps optimize the configuration data updates for SIM cards and enables the distribution of new SIM application updates and configuration settings to (U)SIMs which access these services.

What MNOs need, with increasing urgency, is an Over-The-Air (OTA) Platform that can deliver secure remote management of SIM files and applications, and ensure reliable updates occur efficiently and without impacting subscriber mobile services; in other words a cost-effective way to provide a secure OTA SIM card management solution.

Let us backtrack and consider in a little more detail exactly what constitutes an OTA Platform. SIM cards are effectively resource-constrained computers, that have a set of applications and a hierarchal filing system, which hold a variety of data such as an Integrated Circuit Card Identifier (ICCID), International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) - the main subscriber identifier - Abbreviated Dialing Numbers (ADN), and more.

During the lifecycle of a SIM card, an MNO will need to update one or more of these items held on the SIM. That is where the OTA Platform comes in, enabling MNOs to remotely manage SIM cards and applications used by subscribers in a secure way, ensuring that the subscriber can continue using their SIM card as normal. In essence, the platform is a simple, cost-effective solution with minimal integration requirements.

Looking into some of the Use Cases, the advantages of an OTA Platform are both various and obvious. One example is to defend against the increasingly common threat of SIM attacks, where hijackers are exploiting SIM security vulnerabilities. Some operators manufacture, distribute, and activate SIMs with an MSL value set to zero, clearly presenting a security issue. An OTA Platform can automate the transmission of encrypted OTA RFM commands to the SIM to set a new MSL value and therefore alleviate this risk

Another example Use Case is Service Provider Name (SPN) update. Here, a subscriber who qualifies for this program will have their SIM’s network name updated to “Platinum” allowing them to enjoy a host of premium services. The MNO is likely to need to update the SPN which appears on the subscriber’s device which identifies the network to which the SIM is attached. As MNOs continue to innovate and revamp their branding, they may also need to change the SPN, either by batch operation or individual SIM updates in real-time; for instance MVNOs who rely on host network operators to provide network connectivity services may want to change the network name that appears on the device to their name. Again, the OTA Platform handles this task.

A third Use Case is SIM Network Prioritization, automating the relevant settings for a specific group of subscribers. There are regulatory requirements in some countries where it is required by law for telecommunication providers to ensure selected people are given network priority especially in times of disaster or emergencies. An OTA Platform can provide automated network prioritization settings for groups of SIMs by carrying out OTA RFM commands to selected SIMs to update EF Access Class Control (ACC) on the SIM card. The access control class is a parameter to control the access, and certain classes are allocated to specific high priority users.

The Use Cases above are just a few among many examples of the extensive and varied benefits that can be accrued by using a modern OTA Platform.

24 Feb 2021