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All SIM Cards Are The Same, Aren’t They?
(Spoiler Alert - The Answer is No).

Common sense says that mobile networks are pretty similar and the same goes for SIM cards. But, as the mobile market has evolved the difference between networks, the SIM cards and how the two interact have actually become greater, not less.

In terms of the networks themselves, each has their own strengths and that’s why LC Automation has partnered with mobile experts Telenor, to offer specific and most of all, reliable, M2M solutions. The lowest price option only makes sense if you believe all networks are the same.

A SIM is just a SIM. So why do I need to buy a specific M2M SIM?

To answer that question, you have to understand that voice and data have different expectations and standards. If your mobile phone doesn’t work, most of the time you will be able to use another phone to make that critical call. Cost of failure is likely to be very low. If there is a problem with your phone or SIM, your network is quick and professional in resolving it, because you are worth looking after and the income you represent, is relatively high.

M2M is a very different story. Here the revenue is less than a tenth of what a consumer is worth, so there are fewer resources to look after each individual connection with the same high level of service.

Different Expectations and Different Levels of Support

In terms of problem resolution there is also a big difference. A Tosibox Lock can’t simply borrow a SIM from the unit next to it. Also, the hardware and firmware you are using will be bespoke and a call to customer services will quickly go “off script” - you will almost certainly be advised to take the SIM out, give it a rub and put it back in again.

This may ‘fix’ the problem, but it is not a solution. It doesn’t explain why the thing hung in the first place. However, as far as the support call goes, they have done their job and they can go on to the next call. Obviously, there are two very different expectations - 90 to 96% availability is regarded as good for voice, but the M2M world is striving for 99.999%. Remember that 96% availability means your system can be down for an hour a day and still be regarding as ‘good’. Our customers expect better than that.

The Physical SIM

Not all Sims are the same. In the voice market, using a consumer SIM keeps the cost down and the phone is usually kept away from extremes of temperature since they tend to be with the owner. In M2M applications, the hardware can be far more exposed. Roadside cabinets can suffer a wide range of temperatures across the day and climate monitoring is very often in exposed locations and has even less ambient heating than a roadside cabinet. Extreme cold or heat can deform the SIM, resulting in failure.

But there are other failures which those involved in long term M2M projects are aware of. Your SIM can fill with SMS messages and some hardware doesn’t have a command to delete them, so eventually the card has to be replaced in the field. Your network will also make small changes throughout the life of the product and the SIM holds a small amount of non-volatile memory to keep up with these updates. EEPROM generally supports around 100,000 read/write cycles before individual memory cells start to fail and the SIM card will need to be replaced.

Telenor provides a more robust SIM that is specifically designed for industrial applications. That means the SIM cards they shipped 8 or 9 years ago are still in the field with an average 87 parts per million failure rate (compared to an industry average of nearly 10%).

SIM Technical specification

  • Combined 2G SIM, 3G & 4G USIM
  • Plug-in UICC form factor according to ETSI TS 102.221
  • 62 Kbytes of available operator memory
  • Long life – high use
  • Temp range: -35°C to +85°C
  • High stress memory (HSM) supports >2M E/W cycles per file
  • Data retention: >10 years at -35°C to 85°C
  • Outside of HSM 500k E/W cycles


Data versus Voice

The M2M market is often served by voice SIM cards that have been data enabled, sometimes through a 'grey' un-franchised route. Unsurprisingly, this can create reliability issues, increased downtime and poor service. Potential problems include;

  • SIMs being shipped but not activated
  • SIMs being enabled for WAP not WEB
  • Fixed IPs are usually not available
  • No detailed billing
  • No real-time information about usage
  • Longer term tariff issues
  • No technical support and no contractual responsibility

Telenor and LC Automation offer specific M2M data SIMs, backed by the infrastructure and billing structure to give you all the support and interconnectivity you need.

What is the Cost of Failure?

If the SIM in your phone stops working, your network will usually send a new one the next day and you will be happy with their great customer service. The cost of a failure is likely to be low. Now do the same with an M2M SIM in a remote machine and the impact is far greater. First, there will be a gap while an engineer is sent to site and your machine could be out of action for a day or more – completely outweighing the reason for Remote Access in the first place.

The truth is there is probably nothing wrong with the physical SIM. Reputable M2M specialists have been supplying SIMs that are ‘hardened’ for a number of years, meaning they can handle extremes of temperature better and are designed to be out in the field for ten years or more. The reason many of these SIMs fail is because of the interaction between the hardware and the network. Both are always changing and keeping up with the latest expectations from both sides is a speciality in itself.

Another reason they fail is because the networks have made changes to the profile of the SIM without realising the impact this has on M2M applications. Telenor only use M2M hardened SIMs that have a high read write memory and a wider temperature spec.

The network can also be a source of failure. Peer to Peer (P2P) is not allowed and most M2M applications use P2P, where your device sends a bit of information to the server every hour.

Once you have the right tariff, can you smooth out the locations that are busier than others with data aggregation? For example, if you have 100 sites that consume on average 1Mb per month, but some sites use 2Mb and others only 0.5Mb. Wouldn’t it be good if you have 100 1MB SIMs that can all take out of a 100MB pool of data? You can with Telenor.

Management of your SIM estate is also important when controlling cost, a good management platform will let you drill down to see data sessions and the networks view of usage, 9 bytes or 1KB for example.

Telenor and LC Automation Partnership 

Telenor Connexion have been creating connected solutions for over 15 years, making them one of the most experienced providers today. They enable energy-saving building management, remote access to machinery around the world, vehicles with connected safety features and much more. In the end, it is all about using data and technology in smarter ways to solve your business needs and create peace of mind.

Telenor Internet of Things (IoT) platform is tied to more than 400 mobile networks globally.

Drawing on that 15 years of experience, a strong product portfolio and a collaborative approach, the Telenor and LC Automation partnership makes it easy for you to realise the value of connected services. Our solutions are open, agnostic and future-proof. We utilise the latest technology, combined with in-house expertise, to continually support you.

Why Choose Telenor Connexion?

  • 15+ years of connecting IoT services.
  • 10+ million deployed SIM cards worldwide.
  • 400+ partner mobile networks worldwide.


Looking for More Information? We Can Help With That...

If you would like more information about Telenor M2M SIM Cards, Remote Access or the IIoT, please call our Head Office Sales Department on 01254 685900 and we will make sure you get to speak to one of our Industrial Communication experts.

Telenor M2M SIM Cards from LC Automation

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