MVNO SIM range - How can an MVNO get SIMs?

To become a successful MVNO, you need to consider various issues about SIM cards and get all the requirements needed for a profitable MVNO business. 

Full MVNOs own the Core Network and use the RAN part of an MNO. It is mandatory for them to have a SIM range and own the IMSI codes of subscribers. 

What is a SIM card?

Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card is an integrated circuit that connects the user equipment or mobile station to the mobile network. The SIM card stores various information about the authentication keys and certificates. The HSS/HLR uses all that information to manage the subscriber’s identity.

SIM cards have memory storage facilities for several fields such as Service Provider Name (SPN) and the ICCID, IMSI and MSISDN. Bought SIMs already have default settings that can later be modified using OTA messages (Over-the-Air).

    Integrated Circuit Card Identifier is the identifier of the actual SIM card itself because it acts as the identifier for the SIM chip.
  • IMSI
    International Mobile Subscriber Identity allows SIM cards to be identified by their operator networks by a unique code. Network operators use this code for the authentication and registration of the SIM cards using their MVNO IMSI. The IMSI code has the following format:

    ✔MCC: The first three digits represent the Mobile Country Code
    ✔ MNC: The next two or three digits represent the Mobile Network Code
    ✔ MSIN: This represents the Mobile Subscriber Identification Number filling in the remaining digits. This allows your MNO to match any of your subscriber who inserts a SIM within that range to your HSS/HLR
    The phone number of the subscriber.
    ✔ The subscriber is defined by the assoc MVNO IMSI and MSISDN and some additional services, such as CAMEL. This is particularly important in special situations. For example, if the subscriber loses his phone, but wants to keep his MSISDN you can disable the lost IMSI and allocate a new IMSI to the same MSISDN.

Full MVNOs require an agreement with a SIM card provider for the functionalities, applets and for the MVNO IMSI range to be integrated into the cards. In order to change the SIM card settings, an MVNO can use OTA technology (Over-the-Air messages). You can check YateOTA – it provides the functions required to manage SIM files and applets.

This is important because the MVNO business relies mostly on the special prices offered to the subscribers. The MVNO SIM range has to provide the technical requirements to ensure the possibility of those prices as a part of the business model.  

SIM cards have developed gradually, along with advances in technology. The development of SIM cards can be broken down into four groups and each of them could work as MVNO SIM range.

  • Regular SIM
    In GSM the SIM card was considered both the hardware and the software. Today this is known as the regular SIM.
  • uSIM
    The universal SIM is a software-only application developed as a part of UMTS. The hardware part is called UICC (Universal integrated circuit card). You can make all the changes you need only on the software application.
  • iSIM
    The IP Multimedia SIM was created to serve the VoLTE technical requirements. It has parameters for authentication and registration to the IMS Core Network. The ISIM application can also work together with a regular SIM or USIM on the same UICC (hardware)
  • cSIM
    The CDMA SIM is an application to support Code-division multiple access phones with an applet called Removable User Identity. By porting the application to the UICC, a card with CSIM can move the subscriber identity from one phone to another by simply inserting the SIM card.
  • eSIM
    The embedded SIM is soldered on the motherboard. The SIM card’s circuit is connected to the phone, and they communicate with each other. One difference between eSIM and traditional removable SIM is the number of profiles. The eSIM can store different profiles, but the traditional removable SIM cards only store one profile. Operators can add multiple profiles to an eSIM using OTA technology. This technology provides flexibility to subscribers and is used especially for number portability.
MVNO SIM range

How to get MVNO SIM cards?

  • 1.
    Full MVNOs can buy them from a SIM provider
    In this case, the MVNO has its own HSS/HLR, and everything happens in the home network. Depending on the business model the MVNO aims for, you will have to contact a SIM provider and ask for certain specifications. There are many SIM providers out there, and an MVNO can choose the best SIM cards for its business according to the services he is planning on providing. The SIM providers could manage to configure the card according to your technical requirements.
  • 2.
    Light MVNO can use the SIM cards from the MNO supplying the network
    Light MVNOs operate their own customer support, marketing and distribution operations. They use the SIM cards of the MNO they have an agreement with. The HSS/HLR of the MNO has stored the SIM range of the light MVNO. Further operations are handled according to the business agreement between the MNO and MVNO.

What kind of technical requests should MVNO SIM have?

  • Basics
    ✔ Card type
    ✔ Physical form factor
    ✔ Capacity
    ✔ Java Card version
    ✔ Global Platform version
    ✔ Java STK support (The interface to install applets on SIM)
    ✔ Remote File Manager
    ✔ Remote Application Manager
  • Authentication
    ✔ Authentication algorithms for 2G and 3G/4G
    ✔ K – Authentication Key
    ✔ SQN – The Sequence Number concealment
    ✔ XRES – Expected Authentication Result length
    ✔ OP: Operator Code – same for all SIMs from a single operator.
    ✔ OPc: ​Derived operator code unique for each SIM.
  • EF minimal sizes (bytes and enteries)
    ✔ Public land mobile network – PLMN settings
    » PLMNsel – PLMN Selection
    » FPLMN – Forbidden PLMN
    » HPLMN – Home PLMN
    » EHPLMN: Equivalent Home PLMN
    » PLMNwAcT – PLMN with Access Technology
    » OPLMNwACT – Operator controlled PLMN selector with Access Technology
    » HPLMNwAcT – HPLMN with Access Technology
    ✔ UST (uSIM Service Table)
    ✔ CBMI – Cell Broadcast Message identifier selection
  • ✔ Support multiple IMSIs and possibly MSISDNs on a single SIM card.
    ✔ Multi-IMSI is usually done with an applet. The MVNO decides the applet settings with the SIM provider.
  • OTA SIM provisioning
    ✔ Over-The-Air messages for altering SIM parameters and installing applets
  • eSIM provisioning
    ✔ Support provisioning eSIM for smartphones or IoT / MTC devices

Types of applets an MVNO could install on a SIM

  • Multi-IMSI applet
    If the MVNO needs multiple IMSI codes on a SIM card
  • Digital signature
    Verifying the authenticity of digital messages or documents
  • Banking applet
    For interrogation of different banking transactions
  • UICC Carrier privileges
    Used to grant Java based apps (.apk) access to UICC by adding privilege rules based on certificates.

Yate-based solution equipment for MVNO SIM card

  • YateHSS

    ✔ A software implemented product that provides the functionalities of LTE HSS and GSM HLR.

    ✔ You can use this product for both Circuit-switching and Packet-switching, so your subscribers can roam from a 4G network to a 2G/3G network and back.

    ✔ YateHSS/HLR stores and manages the SIM database for mobile networks. It also manages multiple subscriber identities (from different technologies) in one server, providing seamless services over different networks
Multi IMSI MVNO SIM card solution
OTA Messages for MVNO SIM card

  • ✔ A system that provides the functions required to update SIM and mobile devices configurations using Over-The-Air messages over SMS.

    ✔ You can launch campaigns for advertising and marketing to increase ARPU, as activating a new option

    ✔ Reduces the costs for SIM and UEs replacements due to updates such as 4G and soon 5G support

MiniCore - Core network for tests and research

The MiniCore is a small factor PC computer that can be used as a test LTE/GSM Core Network. It has installed the MSC/VLR, GMSC, MME/SGW/SGSN, PGW/GGSN, IMS CSCF software components. The MiniCore can also work as an AuC, HLR, HSS for Subscriber management.