Global Roaming ICCID & SIM Cards: Steered vs Non-Steered

IoT SIM Cards for tracking goods
  • A worldwide roaming SIM (aka global roaming SIM card) is a SIM that allows devices to connect to networks in multiple countries, without having to switch SIM cards.

  • IoT devices can therefore be equipped with global roaming SIMs, allowing them to stay online even while travelling internationally. They are subject to international roaming charges.

  • Non-steered SIM cards can connect to any network specified within their regional communications plan, but prioritise device connectivity using signal strength or network quality.

  • Steered IoT SIM cards first connect and remain connected to preferred networks even if they are not the best available, which can cause issues with M2M applications.

What are the differences between worldwide roaming SIM cards for IoT and travel SIM card(s)?

There are distinct differences to consider between worldwide roaming sim cards for IoT and travel SIM cards. 

Firstly, IoT sim cards are specifically designed for devices that require constant connectivity and data transmission, such as GPS trackers or smart sensors. These SIM cards are usually equipped with features like low power consumption and high security to meet the demands of the IoT industry. 

On the other hand, travel sim cards are more geared towards individual travellers who require temporary access to voice, text, and data services while abroad. They may offer packages with larger data allowances and roaming coverage in popular tourist destinations. 

IoT SIM cards tend to stay in the country for longer periods and therefore require specific IoT agreements that reflect their use and stay of residence. Therefore, it is essential to assess your specific needs and usage requirements before selecting the most suitable SIM card for your purposes.

What is a multi-network global roaming SIM?

A global roaming sim card is an IoT SIM card that allows global coverage with specific predefined tariffs.

Also known as a multi-network roaming SIM, this type of SIM card enables users or IoT devices to access multiple mobile networks across different countries but remain hosted and billed by a Virtual Mobile Network Operator (MVNO). 

Essentially, any SIM card that can legitimately access data or SMS across multiple networks in any or most countries is considered a global roaming SIM.

These SIMs are one of the most widely used M2M connectivity solutions, as they offer companies significant advantages when it comes to IoT (Internet of Things) applications.

They are particularly important for allowing devices that travel that need to remain connected (i.e. goods or vehicles), or critical services which need to connect to the best mobile network available in a country.

Recommended reading: A guide to IoT Connectivity, IoT SIM Cards & Multi-Network Systems

Steered versus non-steered global roaming IoT SIM cards?

There are two types of multi-network SIM cards: steered and non-steered.

Although both types of SIM cards can provide global coverage, the difference lies in how they connect to mobile networks and how this affects their M2M connectivity.

Let’s break down what each type of global roaming SIM card offers:

What is a steered global roaming SIM card?

A steered global roaming SIM card is a SIM card that prioritises one primary network over all the others. While this is great for the network provider(s) who want to gain the predominant share of the revenue, steered SIM cards can cause major issues for certain M2M applications.

Because of the logic on the SIM, steered SIM cards don’t prioritise the strongest connection or best connection available and will use their preferred network instead, even if the signal is poor. This creates major issues for some IoT devices that need a steady, stable connection, like IoT-connected vehicles.

What is a non-steered multi-network global roaming SIM card?

On the other hand, non-steered SIM cards are IoT SIM cards that will always connect to the strongest available network without preference. Unlike steered SIM cards, non-steered SIMs prioritise connectivity quality over ensuring the majority of data is over specific preferred networks.

As there is no predefined preference on their networks, non-steered SIM cards will automatically create a list of all the available networks and jump between them depending on which has the strongest network in any given area. 

It also means that more sophisticated IoT devices can select their preferred network based on measured data throughput.

This offers M2M applications a more reliable connection and makes them ideal for IoT-connected devices that require a strong connection in all situations, like asset monitoring systems, safety-critical alarms, point-of-sale terminals or public transport networks.

Better yet, compared to steered SIM cards, non-steered SIMs offer the highest probability of continued service during any possible network outages on roaming networks, making them ideal for global IoT/M2M applications. 

With steered SIMs, devices are more likely to remain on its preferred network even when that one is not available due to a local outage or one in its core network.

Recommended reading: How to choose the right SIM card for IoT purposes (9 reasons)


How do I know which type of IoT SIM Card (steered or non-steered) is best for the countries I am intending to use my IoT device in?

When deciding on the type of IoT SIM card comparison to use in a particular country or region in the UK, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, it is important to consider whether a steered or non-steered option would be more suitable for your needs as well as your needed data plans. Steered SIM cards are typically strongly tied to a specific network provider, which can limit your connectivity options and coverage in some regions. 

On the other hand, non-steered SIM cards offer more flexibility as they can connect to multiple networks, ensuring better connectivity and coverage in various locations. To determine the best option for the countries you plan to use your IoT device in, research the network providers available in that region and consider the coverage and reliability offered by each. By making an informed decision based on your specific requirements, you can ensure optimal performance and connectivity for your IoT device.

Are Caburn eSIMs steered or non-steered?

At Caburn Telecom we’re dedicated to providing the best IoT SIM cards for any global IoT application, which is why all of our SIMs are non-steered.

We believe that having a reliable connection should always be the priority for M2M applications, which is why our IoT SIM cards can connect to the strongest available network in any country and jump between them whenever necessary.

With any non-steered IoT SIM card, it’s essential to have a wealth of strong networks available to reach optimal connectivity. Thankfully, Caburn Telecom has access to over 600 mobile networks and over 8 global roaming core network providers.

Get in touch with us to find out more about our IoT SIM cards and how they can help your IoT application stay connected to the strongest network available no matter where you are in the world.