The virtual SIM - a feasibility study

Marc Richarme

AbstractThis report demonstrates the feasibility of replacing the physical SIM card – the subscriber authentication token used in every GSM and UMTS terminal – by a virtual counterpart, the ‘Virtual SIM’. The SIM card is a critical component for mobile operator as it plays a key role in billing subscribers for their use of the network, and in addition protects against various types of fraud. Furthermore, operators use the SIM card as a platform for the deployment of advanced network- and user services. This means that a Virtual SIM scheme must satisfy many challenging requirements regarding security, functionality and operational feasibility. Furthermore, in order for such a system to gain the acceptance of terminal manufacturers, it must also be low-cost and preferably have other advantages justifying the extra effort and risk incurred by moving the SIM functions to the terminal.
The chosen approach leverages the secure processor already existing in many mobile terminals to provide the required level of protection to the critical SIM functions. The system also largely builds on technologies already present in most existing mobile phones to provide platforms for supplementary applications and for remote management.
An over-the-air provisioning system makes it possible to sell subscriptions in the form of numeric codes to be entered in the terminal, which is compatible with all existing subscription sales channels. In addition the system makes it possible for operators to implement web-based subscription portals that users can access directly from their mobile terminal, even if it doesn’t already have a working subscription. This allows existing users to get their subscription into new phones and new users to buy a subscription directly from their mobile terminal, and use it immediately after.
The proposed scheme has several advantage of the physical SIM card. In the terminal side some advantages are saved board space, increased the durability of phones, increased standby time, better SIM lock, and even a prevention mechanism again device counterfeiting. For operators, the Virtual SIM effects cost savings and opens the door to several new ways of selling subscriptions.
TypeMaster's thesis [Industrial collaboration]
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark, Department of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science
AddressRichard Petersens Plads, Building 324, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark,
SeriesDTU Informatics M.Sc.-2008
NoteIn collaboration with DTU and Nokia Denmark A/S
Electronic version(s)[pdf]
Publication link
BibTeX data [bibtex]
IMM Group(s)Intelligent Signal Processing

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