Sim cards explained

Sim cards – how do they work?

Ever since their inception in 1991, SIM cards have been the best friend of every cellular device, authenticating and connecting users to the GSM. While their core functions have remained their same, their appearance and capabilities have improved dramatically. While IoT/M2M SIM cards look very similar to regular SIM cards in every smartphone, they accommodate entirely different needs.

How does a SIM Card Work?

The primary function of a SIM card lies in its name: Subscriber Identity Module. The card saves information, which is used to authenticate users and then connects the devices to the GSM (Global System of Mobile Communications). GSM has been the established standard since the inception of 2G, and advancements in GSM were usually followed by advances in SIM cards.

Ever since it was first introduced in 1991, the SIM card has grown on its users and established itself as an integral aspect of business management. Companies have relied on SIM cards to connect their day-to-day operations and employees.

History of the SIM Card

The first SIM Cards were developed by a German company (Giesecke & Devrient), that usually specializes in banknote security features and smart cards. The first 300 of its kind were sold to Radiolinka, a Finnish wireless network provider. Their network hosted the very first GSM phone call on March 27, 1991.

The very first SIM cards were rather bulky and looked very similar to modern SIM chip credit cards we see today. Their data capacities ranged from 32 KB to 128 KB, and only stored SMS and phone book contact details. The earliest models of the SIM card were only able to store five messages and 20 contacts.

The bulky credit card-sized 1FF SIMs were eventually replaced by mini-SIM cards (2FF) in 1996. Every cellular device during the 90s and 00s had a slot compatible with the mini-SIM card.

Being able to place your SIM card into any cellular device was a huge advantage. When upgrading their phone, users could easily import their identity, phone book contacts, and messages to the new device by simply plugging their SIM card into the new device.

Even if a phone was damaged, users could still save their data by removing the SIM card and inserting it into a replacement device.

With the inception of smartphones, the continuous demand for smaller, more powerful cellular devices increased drastically. This pushed manufacturers to shrink the SIM card once again, all while maintaining its processing capabilities. In 2010, the micro-SIM (3FF) was born, and only two years later, in 2012, it was redesigned into the nano-SIM card (4FF) was born.

IoT vs M2M vs Regular SIM Cards

The difference between IoT & M2M SIM Cards

There is none. While there is a notable difference between IoT and M2M environments, these differences are not relevant to the functionality of a SIM Card. As such, the terms IoT SIM Card and M2M SIM Card describe the same product. Whether the SIM-enabled device transmits data to a cloud or another isolated device does not matter from a technical perspective.

IoT/M2M SIM Cards vs Regular SIM Cards

1. Scalability

IoT/M2M SIM Cards are purchased with scalability in mind. Deploying IoT/M2M environments is a time- and cost-intensive undertaking for most companies. The SIM card used to turn their devices and sensors into IoT-enabled devices is a crucial component to the network architecture. As such, companies carefully choose a SIM card provider, by testing their coverage within their environment and examining their future potential for scalability, before purchasing those SIM Cards in bulk.

2. Bulk Prices

Most regular SIM cards for smartphones are sold to individual users. While they are cheap to produce, the price is generally set by how much the customer is ready to pay. IoT SIM Cards are typically purchased by major companies with big operations and thus are typically sold in bulk at a fraction of the costs of a regular SIM card.

3. May run on different network technologies

Some IoT SIM cards may run on the same cellular technologies as regular SIM cards used by smartphone users, such as 2G, 3G, and 4G. However, several standards were developed specifically to accommodate the needs of IoT environments, such as LTE-M, NB-IoT, and LoRaWAN®. Multi-carrier IoT SIM cards, such as the ones provided by Netmore, can switch between several cell networks to ensure optimal speed and connectivity.

4. Trading off data rate for low power consumption and wide range

IoT SIM Cards typically have a much lower data rate, but consume less power and depending on the above mentioned cellular networks, may have a far wider range than traditional SIM cards. Most IoT-enabled devices simply do not need to transmit as much data as the ordinary smartphone user.

5. Increased durability

The average smartphone won’t have to weather extreme temperatures, unlike some of the IoT-enabled machinery used by a wide variety of industries. IoT SIM cards are typically much more durable than ordinary SIM Cards. They are often corrosion resistant, have a wider operating temperature, and feature longer data retention. Netmore’s IoT SIM Cards can operate at temperatures between -25 °C and 85 °C and are able to retain their data for 25 years at 25 °C!

Benefit from Netmore’s IoT/M2M SIM Cards

Our expert team at Netmore Connectivity has collective experience across all kinds of network technologies and thus can help you identify the most suitable connectivity solution for your IoT environment. Netmore’s business model is dedicated to seamless scalability by providing volume discounts on IoT SIM cards, without unnecessary commitment through a service contract. More unique benefits of Netmore’s SIM cards:

  • Our IoT SIM cards are available in all four standard sizes (1FF, 2FF, 3FF & 4FF) and are multi-carrier. This means that your IoT devices can automatically roam between the optimal networks depending on their location.
  • Our SIM cards feature instant roaming coverage across 728 networks in 192 countries.
  • We provide free IoT SIM card demo kits so that you can test their coverage in your environment.