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Mobile services

Operators See Eye-to-Eye on SIM-Based Security

Many of the world's largest operators have banded together to develop a mobile identity service that will provide subscribers with secure access to their digital services using SIM-based authentication.

Called Mobile Connect, the GSMA-led initiative is a collaborative effort between mobile operators, SIM card providers as well as digital service providers with the goal of putting users' mobile phone accounts at the heart of the login process for their online services.

"Mobile Connect is a good example of a simple, free, secure and universal kind of service that operators can bring to make their lives easier," said Stephane Richard, chairman and CEO of Orange (NYSE: FTE).

The idea is that SIM-based authentication is more secure and easier to use than relying on myriad user names and passwords. According to the GSMA, mobile identity services can offer privacy protection and reduce the risk of identity theft.

Some operators already offer SIM-based authentication services, such as KDDI Corp. with its au service in Japan (which has more than 13 million users) or the bank ID service provided by Norwegian operators Telenor, Tele2, and Netcom.

But the new Mobile Connect initiative aims to develop a consistent, interoperable approach by using the OpenID Connect protocol, which will make the service not only easier to use for mobile subscribers but also for digital services providers.

Digital music provider Deezer is one of the companies involved in the initiative. "Authentication is a critical step into the experience of Deezer and how you subscribe, and the initial experience needs to be absolutely seamless," said Axel Dauchez, CEO of Deezer. "Now, it's natural that carriers take the responsibility for the authentication and that's why we're supporting this initiative."

Gemalto is also supporting the GSMA's initiative and has pledged to embed the Mobile Connect applet into the ROM code of all new SIM cards at no cost for operators when the solution is available. "That's our contribution," said Olivier Piou, CEO of Gemalto. "We believe that it should be free and simple."

The operators that are backing Mobile Connect include Axiata Group Berhad, China Mobile, China Telecom, Etisalat, KDDI, Ooredoo, Orange, Tata Teleservices, Telefónica, Telenor, Telstra, and VimpelCom.

Other companies involved in the initiative also include Dailymotion, Deezer, Gemalto, Giesecke & Devrient, Morpho, Oberthur and VALID.

— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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