SIM provisioning is the process of activating, configuring and managing Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards for mobile devices, such as user smartphones, tablets and connected, autonomous IoT devices.
To configure a SIM card’s primary cellular routing and carriers, the SIM card needs to be activated and configured with that network operator’s settings before it can be used.
The process is known as SIM provisioning, which can be completed with a traditional UICC or eUICC SIM card.
SIM provisioning is an important part of the mobile systems authentication processes and therefore ecosystem. It helps to ensure that clients and users can access their expected and needed services without any complications.
Please read this post to learn more about how provisioning works and the role it plays in IoT devices.
What is the SIM provisioning process?
The SIM provisioning process is a critical part of the mobile ecosystem that involves activating, configuring and managing SIM cards for B2B IoT users and consumers.
It allows enterprise clients and users to access mobile services from their IoT devices with a specific network operator and their routing systems and roaming agreements.
The first step of IoT SIM provisioning involves verifying the required communications plan and the client’s identity. In this instance, this is usually an MNO or MVNO.
The communications plan is important as MVNOs and MNOs create products or types of services that are geared towards particular use cases or regional roaming plans.
These are needed to ensure that products can be held in stock and readily supplied to clients who need them quickly or fit a certain SIM product or pricing plan.
The process also includes configuring the SIM card with network settings, such as data plan and roaming preferences. For example, what if voice traffic is needed or a closed or open SMS service? These types of services require specific routing and can be difficult, cost-prohibitive, or impossible to change post-provisioning depending upon the core operator policies and systems.
Secure SIM provisioning means that key settings are stored on their SIM card device and prevent unauthorised access or tampering. Important, as post-delivery changes could create routing issues or unexpected costs.
What is remote SIM provisioning?
Remote SIM provisioning (RSP) is a secure service technology that allows SIM cards to be securely and remotely activated, configured and managed over-the-air (OTA) according to the GSMA standards.
This eUICC technology is based on the GSMA Remote Provisioning Architecture (RPA), which enables mobile operators to provision SIMs remotely.
Remote SIM provisioning allows operators to ensure that only authenticated users can access the service. Typically, this is MNO-approved eUICC platform providers or MNO-approved partners. Security is provided by adherence to the accepted GSMA protocols and standards and through rigorous integration, testing and approvals.
RSP technology is increasingly important as more eUICC devices need to be connected to cellular networks and as mobile services become more diverse in terms of consumer eSIMs and global IoT deployments. It is important to remember, however, for RSP functionality to operate, the SIM card provider and the RSP service provider must have the relevant commercial agreements and be fully integrated for changes to be applied beyond the manufactured and provisioned bootstrap profile.
Importance of remote SIM provisioning in IoT
Remote SIM provisioning is becoming increasingly important in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. This is due to the ability to provision SIM cards with multiple IMSI profiles and free IMSI slots that can be used post-deployment.
It provides a greater degree of flexibility, provided roaming agreements for those IMSI profiles are solid, use Tier 1 carriers and provide cost-effective regional coverage.
It means that there is the potential for switching between roaming providers based upon the region the IoT device is in and the ability to switch roaming providers if there is a problem on the core network of a roaming provider. A key issue which enables downtime caused by core network outages to be reduced.
RSP technology allows MVNOs and MNOs to securely activate, configure and manage SIM cards for large numbers of connected devices that they have provisioned and distributed to customers.
Can I use remote SIM card provisioning with multi-IMSI SIM Cards?
Yes, remote SIM provisioning can be used with Multi-IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), which is a SIM card that is configured to support multiple mobile operator providers. This means that a SIM card can be provided with two or more central operator’s roaming profiles.
There are several reasons why this might be preferential for an IoT service provider:
- A more flexible and more cost-effective geographical footprint in some difficult territories.
- To provide the ability to localise the SIM card when the device enters a country where roaming or permanent roaming are banned.
- Where the nature of the critical connectivity means that a second core network is needed to overcome any outages on the primary roaming network provider. For example, life critical, business critical and mission critical IoT devices.
Remote SIM provisioning, therefore, allows operators to securely activate, configure and manage these multi-IMSI SIM cards over the air. It is, however, important to note that due to the restrictions of provider integrations and their voluntary nature, the manufactured SIM card will still dictate which IMSI profiles are loaded and via RSP and SM-SR (Subscription Manager Secure Routing) integration, which profiles can later be added or swapped using any free or available eUICC ‘slots’.
It is also important to note that manufacturers of SIM cards will not provide uniform or open-ended slots. For security, functionality and commercial reasons they will be limited, and each may be allocated for default or recovery purposes.
Benefits of remote SIM provisioning
Remote SIM provisioning provides several benefits to both mobile operators and IoT users. While creating more flexibility, eUICC SIM cards tend to be more expensive than traditional SIM cards. Additionally, IMSI profiles come at a cost. Put simply, the more core roaming profiles activated, the higher the monthly cost. This, however, can be worthwhile if the devices are located or travelling to certain regions or the security and resilience of at least two core roaming profiles is desired.
Let’s explore some key benefits of remote SIM provisioning which counterbalance the cost:
1) Problem country deployments
Remote SIM provisioning makes it easier for mobile operators to deploy services in countries that are problematic from a roaming perspective. For example, some countries bar permanent roaming or make it mandatory that a local operator SIM is used. Others have operators who do not like high numbers of IoT devices being located on their networks for prolonged periods, by using tourism roaming agreements. This is particularly relevant to some countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Australia, USA & Canada.
By leveraging a SIMs Remote Provisioning Architecture, operators can securely and remotely activate, configure and manage SIM cards without having to manually intervene or physically contact each device.
Through this, there is no need to create a separate SKU to differentiate between devices in these different countries. Instead, a SIM card can be deployed and if it becomes located in a territory where a local/native MNO IMSI is required, such a profile can be deployed or switched to.
This helps reduce costs associated with traditional SIM distribution while ensuring that users are connected to their desired network quickly and securely. It also insures against the devices being switched off by the local MNO once discovered to be in breach of the legislation or IoT agreements.
2) Future proofing
Remote SIM provisioning provides the ability to future-proof technologies to an extent, as it allows for some level of configuration changes post-deployment.
By using remote SIM provisioning, operators can reconfigure their SIM cards with new profiles that match network changes, ensuring that devices continue to have access to services without disruption.
Providing the device has the right modem technology in-built, it means that as networks and roaming agreements evolve (e.g. 5G implementations or the 3G sunset), services can be maintained without needing to physically replace all SIM cards.
3) No physical access needed
A key benefit is that remote SIM provisioning eliminates the need for physical access to each device, as it allows operators to securely activate, configure and manage SIM cards OTA.
This means that hard to reach SIM cards or embedded chip SIMs can be manufactured within products and remain sealed for the life of the product. It also means that a single SKU can be deployed within mass produced products and configured OTA depending upon their locality or changing needs.
4) Reduced lifetime costs for some products
While the deployment of embedded multi-IMSI SIM cards may be more expensive in the short term, they can extend the life of products. It is important to factor in, however, that changing IMSI can depend upon the operator’s licence fees and costs of change. For a product with an extended life, this can be worthwhile, but in many cases an ordinary roaming SIM provides a more cost-effective solution.
5) Secure authentication and encryption protocols
Remote SIM provisioning provides security that is comparable to traditional SIM cards.
The standards and platform implementations are designed to ensure that only authenticated users can access the service, thereby protecting the SIM card from unauthorised access or changes.
The GSMA standards are designed so that inter-operator platforms are verified and validated. Systems undergo rigorous testing to ensure that MNO systems and profiles are protected. Thai is important as IMSI and SIM card credentials are the key methods of authorising access to MNO networks, roaming networks and key IoT services.
6) Flexible deployment and activation of SIMs
Remote SIM provisioning simplifies the process of deploying and activating SIM cards as fewer variants are required to be held in stock. This means that unusual requirements are more likely to be deliverable quickly, allowing operators to deploy services in problematic countries securely.
7) Improved experience by streamlining the network access process
Remote SIM provisioning can improve the device owners experience by streamlining the network access process across multiple regions. While this involves work for the eUICC MVNO or MNO, the operator may not have to manage as many SIM variants and physically change them out regionally.
8) Increased customer satisfaction with quicker access to native services or more localised Points of Presence (POP)
Remote SIM provisioning helps increase customer satisfaction by providing device operators with seamless access to localised services.
By leveraging the GSMA Remote Provisioning Architecture, operators can quickly and securely activate, configure and manage SIM cards over-the-air which can mean that a native IMSI can be configured. This might be required in a single-network form to effect cost savings or to use a more local roaming provider. This can be for preferential roaming cost rates or due to the need to use less conflated network routing to reduce latency.
Unlock Seamless SIM Connectivity
Remote SIM provisioning is an important technology for mobile operators and customers alike, as it helps reduce costs associated with traditional SIM distribution while ensuring that users have access to services without interruptions.
Caburn Telecom is an industry leader in IoT and SIM card connectivity, and we have the expertise to help you unlock seamless RSP SIM connectivity.
We offer a range of remote SIM provisioning solutions tailored to your specific needs, so contact us today to learn more about how we can help.