The Telco space has been a field of interest of Big Tech companies for more than a decade now. And they have been trying to be as creative as they can to disrupt the space and maximise their opportunity.
It’s very intriguing how each of those companies has approached their entry. Google, for example, launched Google Fi about 6 years ago, and it’s been quite successful (though limited to the US) and arguably with a limited amount of disruption (compared to what was anticipated when Google announced it would launch its own MVNO).
Facebook – aka Meta? – on the other hand, attempted to enter the telco space on several occasions. One of them was internet.org which aimed to provide affordable access to internet services in less developed countries via network partners. Another one was Facebook Connectivity, with a mission to connect rural areas and invest in network infrastructure.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has also been navigating the Telco industry for a while now. It’s been playing a key role in helping Telco vendors in developing cloud-based deployments and cloud-native solutions.
In addition, earlier this fall, AWS has acquired the GSM Association (GSMA) certification under its Security Accreditation Scheme Subscription Management (SAS-SM). It is the latest effort made by AWS to embed itself as a number one choice for the cloud service provider in the Telco industry. It also indicates that Amazon intentions towards the telecommunications industry in its strategic future.
What is SAS-SM?
Before analysing how AWS move would impact the telco space and the consumer eSIM market, let’s recap quickly on what exactly the SAS-SM is.
Any operator that aspires to enable eSIM capability within their network needs to, as per the GSMA standards, acquire a network element called Subscriber Management System. It allows operators to manage and activate eSIM profiles on mobile devices over the air.
The SAS-SM is essentially a database onto which the mobile service provider loads their user profiles. It is integrated over ES8+/ES9 protocols with all eSIM-enabled devices. That, in turn, enables a mobile device to authenticate and register with the mobile service provider. In other words, it’s a simulation of the same function as a physical SIM card performs. However, instead of storing the user profile information on the SIM, it is stored on the SAS-SM. It is subsequently pushed onto the device securely when the user activates the service. You can read more about this in our eSIM white paper here.
Furthermore, the SAS-SM platform needs the GSMA accreditation as per SGP.24 Compliance Process. It primarily ensures that the Subscriber Management Systems are compliant with the functional requirements, platform security and site security.
The accreditation is split into 4 main scopes:
- Secure Routing
- Data Preparation
- Data Centre Operations & Management
- Discovery Service
In normal circumstances, the process can last up to a year but has been even more laborious recently with the ongoing pandemic restrictions and challenges since the process requires an onsite audit. However, the GSMA has implemented a temporary Remote Audit procedure while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
What did AWS get accredited for and what are their plans
The scope for AWS accreditation is only for Data Centre Operations & Management in their US East Ohio region. This means that AWS as a site can host SAS-SM solutions e.g., SM-DP, SM-SR and SM-DP+ without the SAS-SM providers having to acquire Data Centre Operations & Management, which is arguably one of the most arduous scopes to get audited and accredited for.
Given the high level of security required on the data centre site and the level of procedures related to risk mitigation and monitoring, this makes the cost of running a certified SAS-SM quite high to the mobile service providers. But moving that cost on to a cloud provider like AWS with an already world class data centres will help reduce the cost on
SAS-SM providers and service providers. They will also not need to worry about the Data Centre Operations and its certificate. Helping SAS-SM can focus on the software and its certificate. And the service provider can focus on the running the service and integrating it into their user experience.
It is another well-calculated move by AWS on its way to play a central role in facilitating and supporting the Telco industry and helping Telcos migrate to cloud-based deployments, rather than disrupt and compete against them (a route that Facebook and Google have taken).
We predict that the AWS solution will accelerate cloud deployments for eSIM solutions. It’s great news for Telcos, eSIM providers and consumers. Additionally, we foresee AWS rolling out the capability in more regions. And hopefully, more public CSPs will follow.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that Microsoft has acquired the same certification from the GSMA a couple of years ago. However, so far, the implementations seem to be limited to Microsoft’s own solutions.