Why Multi-IMSI Is Crucial for Crisis Management
By Scott Ellis
July 1, 2020
By Scott Ellis
July 1, 2020
Amid a global pandemic, ensuring that every device is dependably connected to a cellular network is more critical than ever. When healthcare workers are using mobile devices to monitor patients, stable connectivity can save lives. Multi-IMSI connectivity lets devices switch carriers within a range of available SIM profiles. For frontline workers and those working remotely due to the pandemic, that’s a valuable option.
International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) is an identifier used to connect the subscriber device with a carrier. Every device has an IMSI. The IMSI is linked to the SIM card profile, and each carrier has a unique IMSI range. Since those ranges do not overlap, and the provision is there in the UICC standard, it’s possible to load more than one carrier profile on a single card. However, mobile network operators only provide SIMs with profiles of their networks.
As an alternative, cellular carriers offer subscriptions that include roaming based on agreements they have with regional carriers around the world. Almost any operator’s SIM card can be used in various locations around the world beyond their home network coverage. Still, while functionally similar to multi-IMSI connectivity, roaming has some downsides. Agreements expire and must be renewed between participating operators. At that point, an operator might decide not to allow access to their network or change the rate structure, making it a costly option.
By contrast, multi-IMSI allows a device to choose, for example, the strongest available network in each area on which to activate. It’s also possible to build in automated logic so that the device selects the network according to criteria aligned with operational requirements, a potentially positive feature for IoT devices on the move away from human operators. Multi-IMSI solutions do require activations for each of the underlying carriers, which come with some costs. Still, in many situations, the payoff in dependable connectivity is well worth the investment.
Unlike roaming operation, a multi-IMSI solution allows users and device managers to make use of more than one network option to ensure the best possible coverage for each device, no matter where it’s deployed.
Manufacturers can make a device, send it anywhere in the world and select the most appropriate provider option for that location. This process sidesteps inventory management challenges of coordinating many different SIM cards and profiles.
If a healthcare worker using a multi-IMSI connected device goes into a basement and loses coverage, the device can automatically or manually switch to a different provider with a stronger signal. There are many other critical healthcare applications in which multi-IMSI could improve connectivity services, such as at-home health monitors, connected glucose meters, connected oxygen tanks, and personal emergency response systems (PERS).
In the current COVID-19 crisis, employees in many industries are working from home, and more healthcare workers are making home visits to limit virus exposure for patients. All types of mobile devices, from consumer smartphones to IoT sensors, are trying to connect in new geographical areas. In some sectors, such as the financial industry, workers’ home broadband connections may not provide adequate bandwidth for the files and data they need to access.
Multi-IMSI connectivity provides a viable solution for remote teams as well. Workers can take home a mobile broadband box with a SIM containing profiles of a dozen global carriers. Wherever they go in the world, it will connect to the best available carrier network.
Multi-IMSI connectivity offers flexibility that can contribute much to the health, safety and productivity of remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.