UICC in LTE: A Guidance
Table of Contents
• LTE Context
• A brief introduction to the SIM/UICC
• The role of the UICC (Universal Integrated Chip Card) and associated
applicative solutions in LTE
• SIMalliance’s Position
Mobile network operators are facing huge growth in data traffic due to an every-increasing level of
mobile internet usage. This is largely driven by a growing consumer love affair with smart phones,
though USB modems and other mobile internet devices contribute as well.
These devices offer end-users a wide selection of internet-based rich services including messaging,
localization, interaction with social communities, publication and consumption of content, and more.
As a result, major operators worldwide are planning to migrate to high bandwidth all-IP wireless
networks capable of supporting this data traffic and, in the medium term, allowing IMS (IP Multimedia
Subsystem) -based voice and SMS.
This so-called Long Term Evolution (LTE) is a reality today. LTE is developed and maintained by the
3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards body. The network represents an advance on
existing Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS or 3rd Generation, 3G) networks, and
is also the commonly accepted evolution path for all currently deployed GSM, W-CDMA and CDMA
These LTE networks represent a new era of connectivity for consumers and offer new opportunities
for mobile operators and the mobile ecosystem. LTE takes advantage of an enhanced radio interface
and the scalability of internet architectures and combines these with the security of the UICC card and
associated networks-based solutions and services.
Win-win scenario for both LTE operators and users
LTE solutions are based on the most relevant mobile technologies, and provide high capacity,
reliability, security and cost-effective services and benefits for both operators and end-users.
With smooth migration and installation, more and more operators worldwide are choosing LTE
technology as it offers an important investment protection by reusing existing assets and by
facilitating the roll-out for future releases.
With its simplified system architecture and open interface, LTE offers flexible usage of new and
existing frequency bands, to help improve coverage and capacity for end-users.
This deployment of services will also generate an increase in operator revenue, deliver low
latency and rich IP-based services at a lower cost, and allow total interoperation with 3GPP and
non-3GPP networks which will translate into a remarkable reduction of the cost-per-bit.
LTE end-users will enjoy wider mobile broadband, the highest network speed, near universal
coverage and low latency.
LTE will also lead to an entire new catalog of emerging applications and services.
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The result for users will be an interconnected mobile ecosystem that meets their needs and
expectations and improves their lifestyle.
LTE Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC)
UICC is a mandatory secure element of the LTE environment, ensuring safe and protected
access to mobile LTE and IMS networks.
LTE’s permanent connectivity transforms the UICC into an IP-connected multi-application
platform, capable of exposing services and applications directly accessible from IP networks. The
UICC, as a networked cryptographic computer, offers reliable and easy-to-use solutions for
securing cloud-based services or applications executed in the LTE device. The benefits and
possibilities for operators, subscribers and device manufacturers using LTE are wide. UICC, for
example, can shelter operator-branded applications, downloaded, managed and upgraded over
the air (OTA).
A brief introduction to the SIM/UICC
The SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module) is the state-of-the-art security token used by mobile
network operators to identify subscribers into their 2G/GSM and 3G/UMTS networks. Since its
appearance in the 1990s, billions of cards have been delivered to the market world-wide, which proves
its reliability and capacity to adapt to the evolution of the networks and MNO needs.
Initially meant for GSM networks, and with the precedent of the C-Net mobile communication system
in Germany, it offered a revolutionary concept with the separation of the subscription from the mobile
handset in a dedicated, standardized device. The SIM was later adapted accordingly for UMTS and
CDMA, and it is also the chosen device to identify the subscriber in Long Term Evolution networks.
That means that SIM cards will continue to be present in both existing and future networks. In that
sense, several organizations and standards bodies work together to ensure interoperability between
SIM cards from different vendors, both by defining standards and regularly performing test sessions. It
is worth mentioning here the SIMalliance, OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), Global Platform, OMTP (Open
Mobile Terminal Platform), ETSI and 3GPP among others.
It is widely agreed by all major players in the mobile telecommunications market that the SIM card is
the best container for any kind of sensible information, the Mobile Subscription (IMSI) being the basic
one. But the SIM card is actually implemented in the so-called UICC platform, which is a secure multi-
application platform able to store many other applications besides the SIM, all of them benefiting from
the security strengths of the UICC.
The SIM card is the only network element in the hands of the subscriber, so it brings several benefits
such as common and tested behavior between cards from different vendors (in contrast to the
fragmentation of handsets), controlled deployment of new functionalities and features by the MNO,
management of the card content even after it has been delivered to the final customer (via OTA
systems) and a clear visibility of the configuration and features of each card active in the network.
The above mentioned points make the SIM card the most appropriate device for deploying new value-
added services. Which is why the MNO started to include specific operator service portals back in the
2000 based on CAT (Card Application Toolkit). The advantages of these types of services were clear,
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so in 2008 half of the all cards carried one of these portals, based on text menus and adapted to the
screens and interfaces of legacy handsets.
Now with mobile web and smart phone use increasing rapidly, subscribers are getting used to
enjoying rich multimedia interfaces on their mobile devices, experiences similar to the ones they get at
home. At the same time, the all-IP intrinsic characteristic of LTE networks demand devices prepared to
take full advantage of the benefits that the WEB-based services and internet brings to both the MNO
and the final user. In that sense, the SIM card offers new features as the Smart Card WEB Server
(SCWS), USB IC (including EEM class), IP support, or higher memory sizes, all of them interacting to
fulfil the expectations of the different parties.
The role of the UICC (Universal Integrated Chip Card) and
associated applicative solutions in LTE
With the introduction of UMTS the SIM card has changed. The SIM was a single application smart
card which was designed to work in GSM systems. The new generation is called UICC (Universal
Integrated Chip Card) a generic multi-application capable platform that is able to host several
applications in parallel like Network Access Applications or even banking or ID-applications.
Current Network Access Applications (NAA) defined for the UICC are:
USIM (Universal Subscriber Identity Module) which is the NAA for UMTS
ISIM (IP-multimedia subsystem Subscriber Identity Module) for accessing the IMS system
CSIM (CDMA2000 Subscriber Identity Module), the NAA for CDMA2000
TSIM (TETRA Subscriber Identity Module), the NAA for TETRA
Over time, the role of the UICC has evolved and it has become known as the only operator owned part
of the network residing in the hands of each subscriber. It is therefore the perfect tool for an operator
to distribute his services to the subscriber. And due to its portability and ability to work in any mobile
handset it enables operators to offer network specific services and customization irrespective of the
mobile phone. This uniqueness of the UICC permits a variety of new enhanced features, all to the
benefit of the operator and the subscriber.
Now, with the market introduction of LTE the role of the UICC needs to be adapted. The main change
coming with LTE is the change to an all-IP based system offering much higher bandwidth than existing
mobile communication systems, meaning the mobile communication world and the internet world are
converging. This move to IP and the higher bandwidth also means new opportunities for operators.
The following paragraphs describe these new features with an explicit focus on LTE.
Remote File Management (RFM) / Remote Application Management (RAM)
RFM is an enhancement of the over-the-air capabilities of the SIM card. It allows for management
of the content of the UICC (remove, add, update) in a standardized and secure way. RAM also
provides the capability to manage complete applications in a standardized and secure way. With
these features an operator can always keep the content of his UICCs up-to-date and adapt the
content to the needs of the subscriber. The UICC supports IP-based remote management by
making use of bearer independent protocol (BIP). Using this technology and with the high
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bandwidth offered by LTE it offers an efficient and fast way to offer many new services such as
dynamic application management, phonebook synchronization, and preferred roaming solutions.
As well, synchronization of subscriber’s contacts and the contact manager, allows storage of full
contact details including pictures and many more features, is a particularly promising application.
Security services and identity management
With LTE and the concept of all IP, security and identification is a crucial topic. As is widely
known, the internet is not a secure environment. Many security threats exist and attacks happen
every second. By combining the mobile communication world with the internet, these threats and
attacks extend also to the mobile world. Until today mobile communication systems have been
relatively secure but there are now new challenges.
The UICC can play a vital role in providing security in an open environment. It can be used to
protect specific communication services and can provide the security means to set up secure
VPN-connections for business users. Additionally the UICC is the perfect tool to securely identify
users, manage identities, protect access to personal information during open identification
scenarios, and so on.
Another aspect is the open operating systems in mobile devices where malicious applications
may be downloaded. The UICC can provide the security means to protect the device and the
network against such malicious and fraudulent applications.
A good example is the Femtocell hosting party authentication, whereby on top of all threads
introduced by the all IP concept mobile operators open their network to Femtocell's devices
meaning that their network infrastructure becomes more vulnerable. Even if the device itself is
authenticated and certified by the MNO, the UICC offers a solution to authenticate the hosting
party and then provide to the mobile operator a secure solution to deploy and manage securely
such new devices.
The ISIM (IP multimedia subsystem Subscriber Identity Module)
The ISIM is one of the currently defined applications for the UICC. It is similar to the USIM, which
is the NAA for UMTS but provides additionally the access to IMS (IP multimedia subsystem). By
using the ISIM, the access to IMS is secured by additional authentication and thus providing a
higher security level and protection against fraudulent use of the IMS.
IMS itself is a corner stone of the LTE network. 3GPP has specified the support of voice, SMS,
emergency calls and other supplementary services in LTE by using IMS. The voice solution in
LTE is IMS VoIP and for SMSs the solution is SMS over IP using IMS. The UICC is providing the
security to protect the access to the IMS by means of the ISIM.
Smart Card Web Server (SCWS)
The Smart Card Web Server provides the ability to present the subscriber with card-based
applications with a rich multimedia experience. Using a standard mobile phone browser the user
experiences a seamless service offering when using UICC based applications.
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The Smart Card Web Server allows for applications accessing dynamic content or to store pre-
loaded links to service specific web-pages on the UICC.
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Together with LTE the Smart Card Web Server offers operators a rich multimedia based
environment to design and distribute service offerings to customers. The Smart Card Web Server
makes use of standard internet protocols like HTTP and uses standard html content. On-card
applications and pre-loaded content can be presented to the subscribers in a fashionable way,
also helping offloading the networks and avoid congestion. Links to operator and third party web
pages can easily be provided without the need to pre-configure the mobile handset with this
information. This allows, for example, direct access to web-based information services or
customer support and service pages on the operator portal, thus reducing customer care requests
and costs. LTE provides the perfect means for a fast and cost-effective connection together with
the Smart Card Web Server.
Over the past few years the UICC has evolved in many areas. One of the new capabilities is the
ability to store a huge amount of information in a proven secure manner. Today UICCs already
offer several gigabytes of memory, and, as with all silicon technologies, this capacity is constantly
increasing. With the use of the new features of the UICC the capability to store huge amounts of
data is getting more and more important. The primary advantage of storing content on the UICC is
portability. No hassles when changing the mobile phone – just put your UICC in and all the
content is available again.
UICC offers the possibility to store personal and multimedia content in a secure and protected
way. When a subscriber loses his phone or the phone is stolen, his important and sensitive data is
protected against unauthorized use.
High speed interface (USB)
When storing a lot of data on the UICC, there is also the need for a high speed interface between
the UICC and the device. The USB-inter-chip standard provides the solution for a fast and reliable
interface allowing the operator to provide new sophisticated services leveraging end to end high
The SIMalliance is positioning UICC-based solutions within the LTE environment (all IP, always on,
low latency, need of trust) as the “mandatory” means for carriers to offer differentiated, high-value
premium services to their end-users. The UICC offers operators a range of highly secure solutions for
deploying premium services.
As a matter of fact, the combination of LTE and UICC value added solutions fully leverages the new
benefits of LTE networks to support the uptake of operators’ premium services. These solutions aim to
restore the balance between the mobile operator’s service and that offered by the pure internet
players. In so doing, it permits a more direct correlation between the increase in data traffic and
Together with LTE network conveniences, the LTE UICC also offers operators and end-users an open
catalogue of advantages. Combining LTE UICC premium services to the SIM card, means operators
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will have an important role to play inside the mobile ecosystem. With the emerging applications and
services moving towards the 4th generation of mobile networks, the UICC will help end-users to
benefit from LTE in a secure and interoperable way.
Examples of such applications include an enhanced communication suite, enhanced phone book, rich
calls, enhanced media sharing, enhanced roaming over networks, technologies, and femtocells,
localization for mobile marketing advertising, tracking, and intelligent routing over 2G/3G/LTE/CDMA.
LTE is the bridge towards 4th generation mobile networks. Many wireless network operators believe
that LTE offers the best value proposition to increase network capacity, improve quality of service and
significantly enhance data rates all the while reducing costs.
With its high speed (100 Mb/s download) and low latency, LTE offers an excellent end-user
experience for applications where data throughput is important – it means faster emails, file uploads,
enhanced VPN connections, cloud computing and application-sharing when the users are on the
move. It also opens up new application areas in the consumer or corporate user’s digital life
environment, like high definition video, live TV, multi-user gaming, faster social contacts
synchronization and peer-to-peer application transfers. Permanent connectivity also gives LTE great
potential for vertical markets where instant and reliable reception of asynchronous messages is
Supporting a broader ecosystem, this technology bridges the gap between the mobile and consumer
electronics worlds thereby enabling connectivity between more than just smart phones, computers and
fixed line networks.
The combination of LTE and UICC value added solutions fully leverages the new benefits of LTE
networks. In a world of anytime, anywhere access to mobile internet, operators will be able to offer
simple, reliable, innovative and secure services on the widest range of devices while device and
handset manufacturers will also benefit from this model, since they will need to spend less effort on
customizing devices for operators.
The UICC has always been the ideal connected, secured, interoperable platform for the rapid mass
deployment of services on any device. It will continue playing a key role in the development of
technologies that place LTE & Web 2.0 at the heart of the mobile services ecosystem.
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