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Logica: free up mobile network codes to stimulate M2M

Monday 11 October 2010 | 12:59 CET | Background

The Dutch government should offer more flexible access to mobile network codes and open up the IMSI number plan to end-users to order to reduce obstacles to switching providers for machine-to-machine communications, according to a study by Logica for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The government is looking at ways to reduce barriers to entry in the M2M market.

The Dutch government should offer more flexible access to mobile network codes and open up the IMSI number plan to end-users to order to reduce obstacles to switching providers for machine-to-machine communications, according to a study by Logica for the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. The government is looking at ways to reduce barriers to entry in the M2M market.

 

End-users have already signaled difficulties in changing providers, due in part becase each operator uses its own Sim card. Logica’s report gives an example of one company paying EUR 1 million in order to change operator for 10,000 telephony and 10,000 M2M Sim cards. The costs arise mainly from the complexity of switching the M2M Sims.
 

These kind of obstacles are distorting the market, according to the ministry, especially given the expected addition in the next 15-20 years of billions of devices communicating based on M2M. For example, an energy company checking meters at customers should be able to switch to other providers.


Mobile network codes


The ministry asked Logica to look specifically at mobile network codes (MNCs), the numbers operators need for making use of Sim cards. The economic affairs ministry is responsible for the policy on such codes, which act as a unique identifier for the owner of the Sim card and link the card to a specific network.
 

The ministry is considering issuing MNCs to M2M end-users, as a possible solution to resolving their problems changing providers. At the moment, the codes are only issued to mobile operators. The ministry asked Logica to look at what the consequences would be of such a change in policy.
The options were:


- Opening up access to MNCs so more parties can make use of the codes
- Creating a pool of MNCs that all parties could make use of
- Using software-based Sims (softSims) which can be programmed remotely
- Using Sims with multiple MNCs (multi-IMSI Sims).

Every Sim has a IMSI number - International Mobile Subscriber Identity. All the customer’s details are linked to the Sim, such as name, address and residence details as well as which services they can use.
 

Workable options
 

Logica combined the last two options in its research, as these cover different versions of a similar theme. The second option was not suitable for resolving the problem of provider switching, according to Logica. As the IMSIs used are not easily transferred from one operator to another, the entire authentication process would have to be set up differently. As a result, this option would not work for public networks. For private networks (private GSM for example), a pool of of MNCs may be a good option, as the adjustments to the numbering plan would not be needed.
 

The remaining options, using softSims or multi-ISMI Sims, could help remove the obstacles to changing providers. Logica said the two options could best be deployed together, for mutual reinforcement. Allocating a MNC to end-users would aid switching and is the closest to how mobile networks now work and the current standards for security and authentication in networks.


The ability to change information on Sims remotely offers additional flexibility, which according to Logica is urgently needed given the long-life of M2M applications, estimated at up to 30 years. At the moment, it’s difficult to predict the technical and organizational environment for how M2M applications would work after ten, 20 or 30 years.
 

Huge demand for MNCs unlikely
 

Logica underlined that offering end-users acces to MNCs is unlikely to have any negative consequences for the numbering plan or other ministry tasks. The company does not expect a mad rush for available numbers. Making these available will primarily remove the switching barriers for Dutch end-users. The roaming market for M2M is still difficult to access, and the European Commission and Berec could play a role here in opening access to MNCs.
 

If eventually more than 100,000 MNcs are needed worldwide in order to provide all end-users with IMSI numbers, then there is still enough time to develop a business case to resolve the problem. The current E 212 numbering plan used by the ministry would not face problems.
 

No obligations for operators
 

Not releasing MNCs for end-users means in theory that they will be tied to their current service providers, unless they are prepared to incur the high costs of switching. Logica noted that operators are also not required to have an offering for end-users with their own MNCs. However, MNOs, MVNOs and MVNEs that do offer this would be able to navigate a more dymnamic and flexible market with lower margins and higher volumes. It should also be possible to return unused MNCs. Opta could control the efficient use of numbers and MNCs.
 

The second, third and fourth options are not needed to ensure an effective market, Logica concludes, as the first option is sufficient. At the same time, the possibility of remote changes to information on Sim cards offers possibilities for other sithuations. It’s recommended then to already set up a pool of MNCs for private GSM networks. Logica also called for the market to develop a standard approach for remote updates to Sim cards.
 



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