MNaaS and eSIM - the pros and cons of virtualization for mobile operators and their customers
Virtualization technologies are coming to the network of mobile operators. We started appear Services such as Mobile Network as a Service (MNaaS) and acquire the popularity of electronic SIM. Let's talk about the potential benefits of these technologies for operators and customers and the complexities of their implementation.
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Mobile network as a service
The technology "mobile network as a service" (MNaaS - Mobile Network as a Service) allows you to combine the services of cellular operators on one platform that uses virtualization capabilities. For example, one of these services was developed in Affirmed Networks.
It is a virtual implementation of the core of the LTE virtual Evolved Packet Core network ( VEPC ). All components the kernels are deployed on virtual machines. This makes it possible to exclude a strict dependence between the end devices of the mobile packet network of operators.
As a result, the latter can quickly change the scale of the network in accordance with users' requests, as well as launching mobile services in different parts of the world (as there is no need to build an infrastructure "on the spot").
For example, in Zambia model MNaaS offer use for networking in rural areas. For such cases, it is unprofitable for an operator to create an infrastructure from scratch for a small number of potential customers. But if the providers unite efforts and build a network for joint use, they will share the costs and acquire new subscribers.
Virtualization of functions of mobile networks
In general, the general trend is growing towards the virtualization of the functions of mobile networks. In particular, the technology network function virtualization (NFV) - in this case, part of the applications the operator deploys in the cloud. According to poll Heavy Reading, conducted in 2017 among the providers of telecommunications services, the main reason for the growth of popularity of systems based on NFV technologies is the reduction of operating expenses.
They optimize power consumption: the operator does not need to put their equipment, and the cloud provider saves customers' money due to the "economies of scale" (in fact, buying electricity in bulk).
Another advantage of a virtual solution is the ability to quickly scale networks. By opinion CTO Juniper company Bikash Koley (Bikash Koley), for this reason NFV-technologies will become an important component in the implementation of 5G-networks by telecom providers.
For example, among large mobile operators NFV-technology is actively implementing AT & T. By 202? the company plans 75% of network functions are virtualized. Representatives of AT & T expect that by the end of this year 65% of the components of their batch kernel will be virtual. Also the infrastructure based on NFV creates and the largest Chinese operator, China Mobile.
One of the trends of virtualization of mobile networks is the development of electronic SIM-cards, or eSIM. In this case, the built-in hardware module performs the function of the physical SIM card.
ESIM has several advantages over conventional cards. The first is a simpler change of operator and device. For connection it is not necessary to go to the office of the company: you can order a new electronic SIM-card online. And when switching from one device to another, the user will not have problems with different form factors of "simok".
The second advantage is Security . Download the new profile on the device and delete the old one can only the owner of the virtual SIM. And if the gadget is stolen, it will immediately lose value for the criminal. You can not extract eSIM from your phone, because it will not work for your own purposes either. By the way, the support for virtual SIM-cards in the new iPhone XS and XS Max was announced on September 1? 2018. Also eSIM support smartphones from Google - Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
However, we note that the technology still has its drawbacks.
/Flickr / Pascal Kurschildgen / CC
Experts on the IS say , that eSIM simplifies the implementation of fraudulent schemes with the copying of a person. Such cases are already were with usual SIM-cards. Receiving a copy of the SIM-card on forged documents, the attackers got access to the accounts of the victim through a mobile bank. In the case of eSIM, forged documents are not needed. Therefore, you will have to pay extra attention to the issues of recycling old devices, so that their chips can not get information about the profile of eSIM.
Another problem is related to regulatory issues. Although the electronic SIM allows you to change the operator almost "on the fly", everything is not so simple here. Now the GSM Association (GSMA) is working to create a standard for eSIM. And a number of American providers try "Push" the initiative with the ability to secure the device behind the operator's network. Several companies from the association (one of them, supposedly, was Apple) filed a protest, but how this story ends is still unclear.
Additional restrictions on the change of the operator imposes the legislation of the countries. In some of them, a "remote" (without going to the office) is allowed to change the operator: the eSIM law with this condition took the Indian government.
Other states are only developing new regulations. The Government of Singapore even held a public consultation, during which it collected proposals from citizens and companies about how the law on eSIM in the country might look.
As for Russia, we have eSIM technology limited by the law "On Communications". According to him, the SIM-card is a unique identifier of the subscriber, and its duplication is prohibited. Moreover, in order to change the provider, the subscriber must come to the office in order to verify the passport data and formalize a written agreement. Nevertheless, the technology of the virtual SIM-card are studied. "VimpelCom" and Tele? and "Megafon" tested eSIM function at the end of 2017.
ESIM technology attracts not only users, but also device manufacturers. She is predicted a bright future, it is promoted by Google, Samsung and Apple. For eSIM companies, this is an opportunity to reduce the size of gadgets (since there is no need for a separate slot for the SIM card). But, objectively, the full potential of this technology will be possible only when companies and governments solve the problems of regulating this sphere.
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