Understanding IoT SIMs and Data Plans 

January 17, 2023

For IoT-enabled devices, cellular-based deployments will connect to the network using a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). The SIM was initially developed for mobile phones and other consumer devices. However, IoT devices behave differently than smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Traditional SIMs and data plans developed for consumers are not sustainable solutions for connecting your IoT deployments. 

In this post, we’ll look at the challenges posed by the legacy from the start with consumer SIMs and data plans. We’ll explore what organizations need to connect their IoT deployments. Then, we will discuss why your organization needs IoT SIMs and data plans built for IoT, not consumers. 

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How are IoT SIMs and Data Plans different to Consumer SIMs?

A SIM surrounded by graphic representations of IoT deployments that it enables.

While IoT and consumer devices use SIMs to connect to cellular networks, they have different purposes and needs. Consumers will use cellphones around their homes, workplaces and elsewhere to interact with others.  

IoT devices interact with other machines. Many are deployed in all manner of sites, some of which are in inhospitable and hard-to-reach environments. 

Another major difference is that IoT devices are often deployed in larger fleets. These deployments must be kept online and managed remotely by their service provider.  

The nature of IoT device operation means your organization’s IoT deployments have specific challenges that consumer SIMs and data plans cannot address.  

With consumer devices, roaming outside the consumer’s home network coverage area is occasional. However, IoT devices that are deployable anywhere in the world may be in a situation in which they would always roam, even those that are fixed in one place.  

IoT devices need service plans supporting a localization strategy, especially if the deployments are constantly moving across different MNO home coverage areas. 

Service availability and uptime are also challenging for IoT deployments. Consumers may find data connectivity crucial to using mobile devices for day-to-day recreation activities. Moreover, always-on data connectivity is vital to most IoT device operations that can directly affect IoT device usage without it. 

These connected devices are often working without any intervention from humans. If they lose connectivity, they may be unable to reestablish the connection from a typical consumer SIM profile, resulting in the loss of:  

  • Data 
  • Remote device management 
  • Time and money  

While using multiple service providers can improve your coverage, managing IoT deployments across multiple vendors often becomes too costly and complex. Using SIMs and data plans designed for IoT-enabled devices reduces cost and complexity without sacrificing coverage or data transmission. 

What to Look for in IoT SIM Plans 

A globe covered in a motion blur of network lines.

We’ve covered why traditional consumer SIMs and data plans are ineffective for IoT. Here’s what you should look for when choosing an IoT connectivity solution provider. 

First, you need to find a SIM solution suitable for IoT devices. If your organization deploys globally, find an IoT connectivity provider with IoT SIM solutions developed for your target markets. 

The SIM solution you choose should have the following three critical components:  

  • Coverage (i.e., global service, regions and PRR)  
  • Cellular IoT technologies (e.g., Cat M, NB-IoT, etc.) 
  • IoT dedicated data plans (not consumer roaming prices) 

For IoT-dedicated data plans, consider broadband connectivity for deployments that require high data usage. Work with an IoT provider that offers flexible data plans to meet your deployment’s specific data rate needs. 

If you anticipate varying monthly data usage, look for an IoT data plan that automatically allocates to the optimal rate. See that your IoT plan provider offers a pay-if-use data plan model that only charges you when the deployment uses data. These options will enable your organization to save money and minimize overages so that your bill doesn’t surprise you. 

In addition, your organization needs a sustainable, effective way to manage connections and analyze data usage. Work with an IoT partner that provides analytic tools so that you can monitor devices, services and trends over time. This visibility will enhance decision-making regarding deployments and connectivity to save money and improve efficiency. 

How We Solve IoT SIM and Pricing Challenges 

SIM Form Factor Options 

We have various strategies to solve your organization’s SIM and data plan challenges with IoT SIM solutions. For example, if your deployments are in harsh surroundings, you will need SIM solutions that can withstand: 

  • Fluctuating temperatures 
  • Constant movement 
  • Considerable amounts of dust and dirt 

Embedded SIM solutions are best to meet these needs. They are becoming more common in new form factors for IoT applications, including emerging integrated SIM (iSIM) solutions.  

IoT Data Plan Selection 

We also offer custom data plans that avoid roaming as you deploy across different regions and networks worldwide.  

Unlike IoT SIMs and data plans adapted or resold from the consumer legacy, our IoT connectivity services were built with IoT deployments in mind. 

In addition to IoT SIM solutions, we provide flexible and convenient data plans that offer: 

  • One contract with simple terms 
  • Predictable pricing 
  • No hidden fees or extra charges  

If you’re ready to see the difference that SIMs and data plans built for IoT can make, request an IoT connectivity starter kit. 

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on 27 November 2017 and has since been updated.