Bootstrap profiles for M2M and IoT

A common misnomer of eSIM chips is to think of them as virtual equivalents of physical SIM cards found in mobile phones.

Mobile phones, mobile operators and indeed mobile customers have traditionally enjoyed physical interaction with their SIM cards. They remove them, replace them, and swap one operators for another’s. But this is rarely possible with M2M SIMs in the Internet of Things.

It’s unlikely that an M2M SIM is easily accessible within an IoT-connected device. And an M2M ‘user’ might have a fleet of hundreds of devices within their remit, as opposed to one in their back pocket. An M2M SIM could be positioned deep inside a car dashboard, for example. And cars, unlike mobile phones, also pass from owner to owner – and, potentially, from country to country – on a regular basis.

The solution to this is a bootstrap profile. Rather than being completely empty, an eSIM chip in an M2M device’s bootstrap profile allows it to connect to a discovery server. At that point, an operational profile – with all the required features and functionality of network connectivity – can be provisioned, via the bootstrap. A bootstrap profile is imperative as it means that an eSIM embedded within an M2M device – or fleet of devices – on the Internet of Things needs no human interaction or maintenance. It can be managed entirely remotely.


Technical Overview

An eSIM must have an initial default method of talking to the outside world. The solution to this in the case of an M2M eSIM is to use a bootstrap profile. Rather than being completely empty, an eSIM chip in an M2M device has a bootstrap profile that allows it to connect to a server that controls the subscription on the device. Two servers are required in the case of an M2M application. One is called an SM-DP and the other is called an SM-SR. The SM-DP (Subscription Manager-Data Preparation) prepares the profile for download while the SM-SR (Subscription Manager-Secure Routing) routes the profile over the air into the eSIM chip. At that point, an operational profile – with all the required features and functionality of network connectivity – can be provisioned, via the bootstrap. A bootstrap profile is imperative as it means that an eSIM embedded within an M2M device – or fleet of devices – on the Internet of Things needs no human interaction or maintenance. It can be managed entirely remotely.

It is not necessary to have a bootstrap profile in the case of a consumer device. Instead the operational profile can be downloaded over WiFi either in the handset itself or using a companion device (usually connected via Bluetooth to the eSIM equipped device). The download is usually initiated by the subscriber using some functionality that is built into the consumer device called a Local Profile Assistant (LPA). This allows the user to see what profiles are available for download. These are stored on a server that is run by the GSM Association called a Discovery Server (SM-DS). As the consumer standard was produced more recently than the M2M the two Subscription Management servers have been combined into one which is called an SM-DP+.

For a profile download to work the device must support certain functionality. This is outlined in Annex G of SGP.02 and SGP.22. For example, in order to achieve optimum performance, the device should support BIP. Cloud9 offer a test lab to investigate the compatibility of devices/GSM modules with eSIMs.

Why Cloud 9?

As a full MNO (Mobile Network Operator), Cloud 9 is able to provide its own bootstrap profile on all eSIMs which connects – and can be provisioned with operational profiles – via its own core network. Following its acquisition of the Zynetix product range, Cloud 9 supplies all core network components required by a full MVNO, including HLR/HSS, SMSC, GGSN, GMSC and OCS.

Most importantly, Cloud 9 has developed a remote SIM provisioning platform, connecting to and managing bootstrap profiles across eSIM-enabled M2M and IoT devices. It is compliant with the GSMA’s SM-DP+ (Subscription Manager/Data Preparation) protocol, and Cloud 9 is also working with a GSMA Task Force to define new standards for bootstrap provisioning. Cloud 9’s extensive portfolio of IMSIs – the downloadable core ingredients of an eSIM – can be hosted either on Cloud 9’s own Home Location Register (HLR), or that of our partners.

Want to know more?
Contact us now…
E: info@cloud9mobile.co.uk
T: +44 (0)1277 779100

 

Unlike a large-scale IT network – a mobile workforce using laptops, perhaps – an M2M-based network has the added factor that the connectivity element, in this case the SIM, will be in a device for which the user has no technical knowledge.
Going one stage further, the SIM could be completely inaccessible to the user. Further still, the device could be in a remote unmanned location perhaps acting as a sensor or tracker.
But with an eSIM and a sophisticated subscription management system, none of this is an issue.