Definition of a 5G SIM
A 5G SIM is a tamper-proof secure element which is the only solution allowed to secure 5G network access. It has been specified by 5G standardization body ETSI-3GPP in Release 15 UICC specifications (UICC: Universal Integrated Circuit Card, better known as a SIM).
It aims at directly addressing the 5G key attributes: enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT, critical communications. In 2024, 5G will reach 40 percent population coverage and 1.5 billion subscriptions, making it the fastest generation ever to be rolled out on a global scale.
A 5G SIM encompasses all form factors available (removable SIM, M2M SIM, eSIM).
Challenges for 5G operators
In order to help to deliver the full 5G promise to enterprises and users, trust is increasingly perceived as a pervasive transversal factor to be added to a mandatory trust-by-design virtualized 5G architecture.
But a certain number of legal and security concerns arise:
- User privacy management is nowadays increasingly seen as crucial in a digitalized society. This reality hurts mobile operators in the thing most dear to them in respect to their relationship with their users: reputation, and thus trust. In particular, mobile subscriber identity is at stake (i.e. International Mobile Subscriber Identity, aka IMSI, used to identify the user of a mobile network and a unique identification associated with all mobile networks): thanks to IMSI catcher equipment, IMSIs can be easily misused to locate, trace individuals and collect data. The full anonymization of the end-to-end subscriber identity (i.e. from device to core network) is required: it can be imposed to mobile operators by stringent rising regulations (e.g. GDPR) or implemented by mobile operators as part of their own security policy/strategy.
- Current mobile security architectures mainly rely on the secrecy of mobile operators’ network authentication elements (i.e. operator’s network access authentication algorithm and long term secrets keys credentials used for mutual authentication of users onto mobile networks). Such information can be unexpectedly exposed via hacking attacks (e.g. by state intelligence agencies…) or accidental breaches during exchanges between the mobile operators and their providers. This vulnerability can sometimes lead to communication spying, SIM cloning... Should the mobile operator considers this sensitive data is compromised or suspected of being compromised, it can be forced to change its network authentication algorithm and/or physically replace end-users’ concerned SIM cards, damaging user experience, creating SIM card renewal costs, and eventually lead to loss of trust and reputation of the mobile operator. Hence mobile operators must be able to maintain a secure environment in case of vulnerability by restoring a trustful security level all over the SIM lifecycle.
Then 5G roaming is on the agenda too.
While traveling abroad, 5G users –particularly the early 5G adopters– logically expect to continue to roam on 5G visited networks. They would not understand to roam back on a 3G or 4G network, thus losing 5G enhanced mobile experience. Mobile operators must be able to ensure that their roaming policy across 5G / 4G and 3G is correctly applied in any country.
Benefits of Gemalto’s 5G SIM
Gemalto’s 5G SIM can help to address these challenges.
Subscriber identity privacy
Mobile operators can now ensure user data anonymization thanks to IMSI encryption made possible by 5G SIM onboard identity encryption capabilities.
Trusted environment resilience
Mobile operators can securely and remotely swap on-demand the authentication algorithm contained in the SIM thanks to key rotation management.
Seamless 5G roaming experience
The 5G SIM ensures mobile operators to offer users seamless & optimal 5G roaming experience while maximizing their roaming revenues, thanks to 5G SIM-based over-the-air 5G steering of roaming capabilities.
Gemalto's 5G SIM supported by the world's first 5G chipset for smartphones
All the world's first 5G smartphones rely on Qualcomm®'s SnapdragonTM 855 Mobile Platform chipset.
Gemalto has been closely working with world's mobile chipset and modem leader Qualcomm Technologies to ensure full support of its 5G SIM with Qualcomm flagship mobile platform.
"Qualcomm Technologies has a longstanding relationship with Gemalto focused on delivering mobile solutions with robust security," said Gautam Sheoran, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "We are now extending this collaboration to allow OEMs to easily develop exciting 5G devices with strong security, using both Gemalto 5G SIM and our next generation flagship Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 Mobile Platform to pave the path for 5G commercialization in 2019."