An alternative to SIM pre-provisioning

Stuart Cochran, Evolving Systems
Today’s wireless operators have to deal with ever-growing numbers of SIM cards. Most operators employ a process where SIM cards are pre-provisioned in the network before shipping into distribution channels, but these resources become increasingly strained as SIM card volumes grow.
 
Pre-provisioning requires the allocation of core network capacity and resources well in advance of a card being used, so unnecessary costs are incurred for inactive SIMs. But a new alternative to pre-provisioning is emerging which allows SIM cards to be activated when a mobile is first switched on. This method could be of great benefit to Asian operators.
 
With close to 1.9 billion mobile subscribers and an average annual growth of over 30% in all but the heavily penetrated areas, the Asia region has the fastest growing telecom markets in the world.
 
But among operators in the region there is no sense of complacency. They are aware that to drive their competitive edge, they need to tightly control the cost of growing a prepaid customer base, while simultaneously adding flexibility to the distribution model and engaging more closely with subscribers.
 
Operators across Asia are distributing ever-increasing numbers of SIM cards to end-users to help drive market growth, sustain a churning subscriber base or to support new offers such as SIM-only.
 
With the current pre-provisioning model, each new card requires space on the HLR and other key network elements, including messaging systems and prepaid intelligent network nodes.
 
So operators will typically be forced to make a large upfront investment, not only in the cards themselves, but in the network space they occupy. Much of this ends up wasted because a significant proportion of SIM cards shipped are lost, damaged or become obsolete in the supply chain, while many give-away cards are never used. Each of these cards will also need its own mobile number (MSISDN) and in some countries these numbers are increasingly in short supply.
 

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