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What is an IoT/M2M SIM card?


SIM card

George Orwell may have been onto something when he wrote 1984 but just a few years early. More and more, smart IoT (Internet of Things) devices are monitoring who we are, where we are, and what we are doing. We now find IoT devices in our offices, houses, cities and towns, manufacturing, agriculture & almost all aspects of life. It sounds a bit scary perhaps, but without connected devices we couldn’t enjoy the conveniences and efficiencies in our everyday lives. First, let’s take a look at what IoT is.

What is IoT?

The world as we now know it is entrenched with connected devices. These connected things enable us to communicate more effectively, add automation into what was manual processes, & add safety and security to our lives. We wrote about the AGTECH industry and how connected IoT devices helps our farmers to be more efficient with how they grow their crops and raise their cattle. Connected farms reduce costs and labor using IoT devices.

The next question is how are these devices connected? There are several ways to connect IoT devices. The important thing is that they are connected using data over the internet, or private networks. One of the easiest ways to connect remote devices (like AGTECH or connected cars, etc.) is using an IoT SIM card.

 What is an IoT SIM card?

The telecom industry loves their acronyms, like “SIM” which stands for Subscriber Identity Module. SIM cards hold the information about the user profile to validate their service plan with the cellular networks around the world. Because the IoT industry is developing and deploying so quickly, the need for using IoT SIM cards is expanding every minute of every day. IoT SIM cards enable the connectivity required by IoT solution providers to allow their devices to talk to each other and their backend. Because there is little or no human interaction with the device, the IoT SIM has some unique capabilities.

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IoT SIM cards are different than the SIM card you might find in your tablet or mobile phone. IoT deployments can be thousands or hundreds of thousands of devices in total. These are also typically scattered all over the country, or even the world, so the IoT SIM card needs to be reliable, secure and flexible enough to handle a variety of environments.

The IoT SIM card (aka. M2M SIM card) is specifically designed to provide the connection required. Consumer-grade SIMs aren’t made to the same standards as IoT SIM cards. While they may look very similar these two types of SIMs are different because the IoT SIM has to withstand severe environmental conditions. They also need to be more secure, and therefore the carrier needs to treat these differently by adding security measures like Private Static IPs, VPN, IP filtering, etc. Plans must also be more flexible and cost effective than consumer SIM cards.

Not all IoT SIM cards have the same capabilities though.

Global vs. Domestic IoT SIM Cards 

 Global IoT SIM Card

Global, or Roaming, IoT SIM cards are able to work in many countries without steering data traffic to “preferred” networks. These are the most flexible IoT SIM cards because they allow the device to choose the best available network rather than being forced onto an inferior network so the home carrier (the company you are working with directly) can save roaming charges. They also allow you to use multiple networks in most countries, offering built-in redundancy and reliability.

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Domestic IoT SIM cards

Domestic IoT SIM cards are typically provided by the Mobile Network Operator (MNO) in a particular country. These cards steer your traffic on their network first, and require that you use only their network until there is virtually no service. Once there is no service, they will allow the device to attach to another available network, but only based on their PRL (preferred roaming list) where they will “prefer” less expensive roaming networks over more expensive ones, even if the signal is less that the more expensive network. This can cause chaos for an IoT solution provider because it reduces the reliability of the connection. Domestic SIM cards (sometimes called Native SIM cards) also will limit how much a SIM card can roam…usually less than 50% of the time. They also limit how many SIMs in an account can be roaming at any given time…usually less than 10% of the deployment. This is a major problem when you are setting up devices in many regions and countries, a very limiting factor.

IoT SIM cards are very different from the SIM card you use in your personal device(s). They are designed to be more reliable in harsher environments and have back-end capabilities your personal SIM card doesn’t have. There is also an enormous difference in the provider you choose whether they offer a Global IoT SIM card or a Domestic/Native IoT SIM card.OneSimCard IoT is a leading provider of Global IoT SIM cards. If you would like to speak with one of our IoT SIM card experts, we would love to schedule a no obligation discussion with you. Simply fill out our Contact Form and we will be in touch to schedule this call and talk about your specific requirements.


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