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MNOs – Enablers for Mobile Signature Services

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) across the world are central to the adoption and deployment of Mobile Signature Services such as Mobile ID and Mobile Connect. The purpose of this blog is to describe how uniquely placed MNOs are in driving change in authentication services on the internet and also profit from it.

The need for a strong authentication based user account management for service providers cannot be overemphasized. In the last couple of years, the use of authentication methods such as username/password combination, one-time passwords (OTP) have been proven to not only be weak but to be out of date in the 21st century web applications. Time and time again, we have read stories of massive account breaches or been victims ourselves of privacy breaches. The world understands that there is a need for better authentication solutions than username/password and MNOs are in the right position to solve this niggling headache that is refusing to go away.

Before now, the solutions that were prescribed, were either secure but with bad user experience or designed with usability in mind but with too many security holes to be usable. Another problem of these solutions was that they were not scalable. Therefore, they find more usage in enterprise applications rather than mass market adoption.

Mobile Signature Services

One solution which is not only highly secure but also scalable, with good user experience is digital signature based mobile authentication solution. This suite of solutions is referred to as Mobile Signature Service (MSS) or simply Mobile ID.

Mobile Network Operators are an important player in Mobile ID business. They are enablers for the business and as such, can use their unmatched position in the market to create new revenue streams for their business as well as drive adoption of better authentication solutions on the internet.

MNOs, provide highly secure SIM cards that host the applets which enable mobile ID services. Today, the SIM card is one of the most secure and widely spread devices owned by the people around the world. The SIM card is tamper proof and follows even the most stringent smart card security requirements. Yet this highly secure device is completely owned by MNOs and is already in the hands of billions of people around the world (at last count, over 4.5 billion subscribers).

Another important attribute of MNOs in this industry is “Know Your Customer” (KYC). MNOs will know their customers – In fact, in most countries of the world, especially in developing countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya etc. a subscriber must register with their MNO on the activation of their mobile subscription be it prepaid or postpaid. This offers MNOs the unique opportunity of becoming Identity Verification Service Providers.

With the knowledge of their customers and SIM cards already in the hands of subscribers, MNOs can deploy MSSP solutions to not only offer Identity Verification Services but also become Authentication and Secure Communication Providers. Thus, with their distinctive placing, MNOs can utilize their unique assets to provide authentication services to web service providers.

Internet of Things

There is also an opportunity for MNOs in this era of Internet of Things (IoT). Today, across the world, we are hooking more and more devices to the internet including important infrastructure devices such as smart meters, traffic lights, weather sensors, CCTV cameras etc.

This presents MNOs with a fantastic opportunity to become managed security solutions provider for IoT. Through mobile ID solutions, MNOs can create authentication and secure communication channel for secure IoT communication. In the future, this will become an even easier proposition for MNOs with the development of eSIMs. MNOs just have to be Agile in grabbing this opportunity.

In conclusion, it seems like the MNOs are sitting on a gold mine of opportunities. It is surprising that MNOs are slow in taking advantage of this opportunity today. We are convinced that with the unique position of the MNOs, mobile signature services offers them a future-proof revenue stream.

Written and Edited by: Jarmo Miettinen