In a complex environment streamlining the SIM management lifecycle is the answer
Despite a lot of media noise around eSIMs, the traditional physical SIM is forecast to still be with us in large volumes for several years to come. With demand for mobile data predicted to double over the next five years, mobile network operators (MNOs) that can find more efficient, less costly methods of handling that growth will prevail.
As Eric Hatton, head of Customer Activation & Network Services (CANS) Business Unit for Evolving Systems reports, specifically, they must reduce the costs of managing the SIM lifecycle end-to-end, whilst at the same time providing the perfect subscriber experience.
Increased competition in the market for basic mobile services is driving a need for greater efficiency. With ‘all you can eat’ plans commonplace, MNOs need to find alternative sources of revenue as well as lowering their costs on existing sources. They also need to be more competitive if they want to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to acquiring new subscribers.
Solving this cyclic and complex business challenge isn’t easy. I believe that success can best be achieved through a digitalised, cost-effective approach to a complete SIM lifecycle management process. This runs from sales through to ordering, from distribution to provisioning, and right through to activation and back again.
If this process can be realised it will help MNOs control and reduce costs associated with network resource management and connections, streamline network optimisation and SIM logistic processes, and all while driving new sales through digitalised opportunities and subscriber interactions.
The SIM lifecycle starts before the subscriber
It’s not just a matter of managing resources, as there is a whole SIM lifecycle that happens before the subscriber exists. For example, think about what services are to be produced and what identifiers need to be resourced within the network. SIMs then need to be purchased, which then need to be shipped, distributed, and placed into the market. The SIMs then need to be sold and activated.
Driving sales is necessary too and, potentially, an expensive process because MNOs need to manage and increase the SIM supply chain while simultaneously reducing their costs. Efficiencies can be gained by deploying new sales upgrade tactics, like self-service secure SIM swapping, activating new services in real-time by assigning MSISDNs and other associated resources at the time of first use, and designing new initiatives to target dormant SIMs.
The SIM lifecycle begins with resource management which would include IMEIs, MSISDNs, IMSIs and ICCIDs. When an operator goes to market, these resources need to be set up and loaded onto the network somewhere in a ready state; this is the case if dynamic SIM activation or pre-activation are being considered.
Placing an order with the multiple SIM manufacturers and streamlining the SIM ordering process is the next stage in the SIM lifecycle. Standardising the ongoing ordering process with the manufacturers and understanding when an order should be placed is crucial, as SIMs are sold at different times throughout the year.
SIMs are then distributed and sent through to a warehouse or storage location, and that’s when an MNO resells the SIMs. The MNO will require an end-to-end system to track their entire distribution process, from the SIM vendor, right through to the storage location, into distributor systems then into the market. This is a topic that we are seeing become very popular through Industry 4.0.
Meeting the demands of engagement and monetisation
Enabling the digital sales channel and providing MNOs with the ability to engage and monetise their dealer network and subscribers is the next lifecycle stage. There is a need for a truly flexible digital salesforce, which enables dealers to interact with their subscribers across all their products and services with a single mobile point of sale tool wherever they are located.
This can help give the MNO visibility of dealer performance and help drastically reduce costs, which is vital to the selling process. In addition, the sales activities can feed back into the distribution and ordering functions, enabling just-in-time logistics, furthering cost reduction and competitiveness.
If enforced by regulation, Know Your Customer (KYC) registration and the ability to capture details of the subscriber will be essential. For post-paid there might be processes in place already for credit purposes but, for pre-paid, capturing subscriber fingerprints, digital IDs and signature, and other bio-metric information may be required. While KYC is important, pushing promotions and campaigns to the individual dealers will enable further differentiation at the point of sale.
Post-sale it is possible to continue the cost reduction when we are activating the service, by deferring the assignment of MSISDNs and IMSIs until the SIM is sold. Assigning these resources at the point of activation, in real-time, enables any SIM type to be used for any offer and to reduce MSISDN utilisation to live subscribers only.
MNOs should prioritise addressing the SIM lifecycle opportunity
MNOs have many departments and associated requirements. Getting all the stakeholders aligned to help reduce costs for resource management, report on regulatory requirements, achieve efficient logistics, provision effectively, activate successfully, sell competitively and subsequently recycle resources is a big task. Peering into the live network, tracking the entire SIM lifecycle, and automating manual tasks is key to being successful in this challenging market and is at the heart of Industry 4.0.
The author is Eric Hatton, heads the Customer Activation & Network Services (CANS) Business Unit for Evolving Systems.