Streamlining the SIM Lifecycle

By: Jan Abrahamsson, Eric Hatton

As SIMs evolve, and with eSIM becoming the next step in the evolutionary process, digitization is pushing the issue of SIM management up the priority chain of telco operational issues. SIM developments are raising a number of important questions, but one has emerged as key: how best should telcos address the blurring of traditional OSS and BSS lines of demarcation that new generations of SIMs demand? If they’re not clear about this already, mobile operators are rapidly learning that changing infrastructure requirements are something that they need to address—now.

Why is this the case, and how urgent is the problem? The answers to “why” and the urgency question are related to the imperative of finding more efficient and less costly ways of managing growth. Today mobile operators are under pressure to reduce the spiraling costs of managing the end-to-end SIM lifecycle but, at the same time, they have to respond—if they want to gain competitive advantage—to an increasing requirement for ‘subscriber intimacy.’ Meeting both of these requirements—reducing spend in one case, and adding it in the other—demands a foot on each side of the boundary between the two traditionally different sets of operational management systems, OSS/BSS.

My experience in identifying the best way of crossing this divide strongly suggests the answer lies in a new digitalized, cost-effective approach to complete SIM Lifecycle Management. In fact, I would say that investigating such technologies is becoming a “must” for leading mobile operators. This is because, if a holistic strategy is put into place from ordering through to activation, provisioning, sales and beyond, it will help mobile operators both control and reduce the costs associated with MSISDN management while also satisfying the requirement for improving subscriber relationships. Additionally, it will help streamline network optimization and SIM logistics processes while driving net new sales that accrue through digitalized opportunities and subscriber interactions.

The many challenges of the eSIM era are upon us

For a mobile network operator, the emergence of eSIM adds a new layer of complexity to process management requirements, which are already extensive. They include the dynamic planning and maintaining of resources such as MSISDN, IMSI, ICCID, IP Addresses, SIM Profiles and IMEIs. Additionally, eSIM is already impacting consumer IoT and M2M markets, as they enable multiple mobile operators’ profiles to be generated, securely downloaded and provisioned over the air based upon GSMA’s Remote SIM Provisioning specifications. The immediate result of this expansion of functionality has been a notable growth in the number of MNOs deploying eSIM remote subscription management platforms, suggesting investing in infrastructure support for advances in SIM technology is unavoidable.

Alongside the deployment of these remote subscription management platforms comes an urgent need to align network resources with eSIM profiles. This is because each time a mobile device attaches and downloads a profile, the network will need to be updated. Questions such as “where will the eSIM attach on first use: a nominated single network or an MNO within country?” become critical. Activity volume also becomes a pressing issue, as each eSIM will need an MSISDN and IMSI/network resource, assuming it will possible to perform the activation using the network in the first place.

The challenges involved are not confined to operational processes either. With the introduction of eSIM, it’s likely that the number of network eSIM connections will increase rapidly as operators bring an ever-increasing number of low-cost data plans to market. When this happens, subscribers will need to be enabled to maintain their numbers on one network while their data may be purchased on a different network. Support for multiple eSIM profiles will therefore be needed to maximize coverage. For the service provider, this means that gaining access to state-of-the-art technologies supporting digital subscriber activation and total number management to manage resources for all the on-off connections as people switch to the cheapest data connection will become pressing.


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