Combatting the Demand for Multi-Use Application Devices With a Single Secure eSIM
By Denis Praca, ETSI
Monday, December 12, 2022 | Comments

As the critical communications industry continues to face challenges with the reliability and security of traditional networks, it is essential that critical communication networks transition towards technologies that combat the demand for a new generation of communications that are secure, resilient, reliable, and easy to use.  

There continues to be increasing demand for applications running on mobile devices throughout the critical communications industry. New specifications – UICC Release 17 – developed by standards body ETSI, enable multiple accounts and identities to exist in the same device, without the need for multiple removable physical sim. Instead, an eSIM provides users with the flexibility of using multiple services, whilst delivering long-term network security. 

Already being deployed by two major device manufacturers, this new UICC capability will benefit many users and positively impact many different industries.  

Remote multiple account management via one device 

By having one eSIM, several virtual ‘secure elements’ can be hosted on the same hardware component. This, in turn, addresses the demand for applications on devices, as the multiple secure elements can coexist logically separated, while still being addressed through the same physical interface. Many industries within critical communications, including in missions, manufacturing, and utilities, can benefit from the advantages of easily managing multiple accounts remotely, and through one device. Service providers can also gain from the latest UICC specification as they will be able to deploy their applications on a single mobile device.  

Security and reliability crucial for Critical Communications 

Previously, it was possible to have one mobile network operator on the old UICC specification, but with the new specification’s MLI (Multiple Logical Interface) feature, it enables virtualization of several devices on one secure element. The?MLI?defines a new logical framework which will allow the communication over several logical interfaces going through a single physical interface, and applications on the UICC can thus act in a totally independent manner. This means that the terminal can connect to several networks simultaneously instead of being restricted to just one, which can help to further improve communication and efficiency when carrying out missions.  

For mission critical communications, network and infrastructure systems play a vital role in making the world safer. Delivering the reliability, availability, resilience, and security that standard commercial networks are simply not designed to deliver, critical communication networks rely on these attributes to provide the security and safety that these industries desperately require. From emergency services and first responders saving lives and improving public safety, to transport and energy industries that rely on such business-critical networks as they cannot operate without reliable communications, use mobile, radio telecommunications systems and devices to always provide reliable and secure communications. This development in the new UICC specification further enhances this increased security requirement. 

Reduced hardware components, increased manageability 

It is essential that those depending on critical communications, have access to on-demand connectivity, network reliability and secure network infrastructure. With the reliance on network-based services in today’s digital society, one of the key benefits of having the eSIM, is having a reduced number of pieces of hardware that are extra secure. Traditionally, open, and secure systems are harder to manage, but with this new specification it allows for a reduced attack surface and increased manageability. As such, users with the eSIM can have peace of mind that their information and data is secure and will not be shared across applications. By having a trusted environment, these networks will be secure for critical infrastructure without the worry of hackers trying to steal personal information. This can be anything from personal data held in a first responders’ device to an individual’s electronic ID stored upon their mobile phone, and by having this new updated UICC present, this additional security is provided.  

While the physical challenge is addressed with the reduction in hardware components as a result of this new UICC specification, communication is also improved. Having all applications and data on a single device, whilst being able to connect to several networks, makes it more effective for the coordination of people –e.g. In the emergency services – which is incredibly effective for those areas where it is paramount to react and respond quickly and efficiency. 

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