3GPP LTE refers to the evolution of UMTS networks. This evolution towards a faster communications standard brings with it the promise of greater connectivity and a transfer speed equal to that expected from current internet connections. In this way, operators will be able to offer highly sophisticated quadruple play services, such as Internet access, Mobile TV, and VoIP, to name a few.
It is estimated that by 2012, LTE will dominate mobile broadband for 2 main reasons: It is backwards compatible with GPRS and UMTS and offers an enhanced data rate of 100Mbit/sec (compared to 70Mbit/Sec with WIMAX).
However speed is not the only advantage brought by LTE. The UICC brings to LTE networks a higher level of security and better equips carriers to cope with the security threats present in all digital networks.
LTE, the next generation mobile broadband network from the 3GPP, brings the promise of hyper-connectivity and true mobility wherever you are, whatever the device. With this comes the expectation of new services such as identity management, payment, content protection etc. So the real question of this paper is – what value can the UICC bring to LTE operators?
Since the beginning of GSM in the 1990’s, the UICC, a 32bit processor housing the USIM (Universal Subscriber Identity Module) application, has had the fundamental role of authenticating the subscriber onto the wireless network. Delivered in billions of units worldwide, the UICC has proven its reliability and was instrumental in the success of GSM. This function is now extended to LTE networks, which brings with it the disassociation of the subscription from the mobile device.
Over time, the UICC’s role has evolved and it has become known as the only operator owned part of the network residing in the hands of each subscriber. Its inherent portability brings many advantages and encourages the widest range of distribution models – Signature versus vanilla devices, USIM built in, subsidized handsets, or even generic, non subsidized phones.
Regardless of the distribution model, all these subscriptions rely on the UICC to provide access to the network, to ensure continuity of all services and to bring operator services through device customization.
Over the Air platforms turned USIMs into dynamic management platforms, supporting remote updates to cards already in the field, brand management and the delivery of new services. OTA services are now used to update any area of the memory profile of the UICC for such activities as downloading information related to the latest roaming agreements, voice mail, and more generally, all updates to the subscriber profile.
Fast forward to 2008 and half of the USIM cards carry specific operator service portals. With these service portals, users access operator applications integrated to offer self care, billing information, prepaid reload, mobile banking, remittance, and information on demand, in as little as one click. Each operator designs its own portal, makes it available in every phone on its market with the USAT interface, and updates the services regularly according to the reported usage with the OTA.
In order to make browsing for services easier and provide a multimedia service presentation, the Smart Card Web Server (SCWS) is an application execution environment to develop interoperable and portable operator applications that run on the USIM. Recently standardized by OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), the SCWS leverages the handset browser to run offline applications as the cards host a real web server. The SCWS communicates with the handset using the USIM IP stack.
The new generation of USIM cards can now store up to 2GB of personal
content and offer the requisite communication speeds to make the end-user mobile experience richer, personalized and adapted to user preferences.
With USB IC technology as the high speed protocol, the UICC has gained a high bandwidth communication channel between the handset and the network making it suitable to securely store large quantities of data, with the possibility of integrating flash memory on board.
The higher data bandwidth available means faster communication between the
UICC and the handset. In turn this means that the card can secure access to the
internet, while being an enabler for rich, convergent services.