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What is a Multi Network SIM Card?

Multi-Network SIM
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Unlike a traditional consumer SIM card, a multi-network SIM can connect to multiple mobile networks at any one time, allowing the SIM to seamlessly switch between the strongest available signals within its location. Since their introduction to the market, organisations have begun rapidly discovering the benefits of multi network card(s), leading to an increased demand due to their advantages and capability. Companies often rely on multi-network SIM cards to ensure their systems have the best possible connection, regardless of their location and environment. In this post, we will explore the capabilities of multi-network SIM cards and how they have already begun revolutionising the way businesses interact with mobile networks.

What are Multi Network SIMs used for?

As we’ve established, consumer mobile phones remain connected to one network in their home country as they are sold by carrier Mobile Network Operators (MVNOs) as part of a fixed-term package. Alternatively, the MNO will sell a connectivity package via their consumer SIM card which is inserted within the consumer’s already owned mobile phone.

When travelling, if their contact includes international roaming, the consumer can use their phone abroad. The costs and limitations of the SIM are defined between the local MNO(s) in the region the user is travelling and the home/original MNO. This usage, however, is usually restricted on the basis that the user is expected to leave the network after a reasonable travel period (such as 3 months).

By employing commercial roaming agreements and investing in interfacing systems and technologies, however, Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) can deliver multi-network capability for Internet of Things (IoT) devices even when they are located in their home network.

The technologies for this are based upon roaming networks but are used via accepted IoT device roaming agreements. IoT revenues are becoming increasingly important for MNOs, so providing commercial agreements and the basis for devices to use their networks is important given the high growth of IoT. This multi-network capability allows intelligent IoT devices to connect to the most favourable local network based on their local, physical, geographical, or temporal circumstances.

For IoT devices that are not as sophisticated, they will generally connect to the strongest radio network signal. As IoT devices need to connect to their preferred network, multi-network SIMs should ideally be unsteered SIMs, rather than steered SIMs which will always try to connect to one specific network regardless of quality or congestion levels.

This can cause problems as the device may not be able to send data on that network for a whole variety of reasons but will remain locked onto that steered or priority network. This can mean that the connection is not always strong and is often unreliable. The best multi-network SIMs are unsteered, so they will always connect to the strongest network available, or the network the device selects based upon its data throughput within a fully costed and agreed cost plan.

Healthcare, security and surveillance, retail and renewable energy industries use multi-network SIMs to ensure that their devices always remain connected and operational, regardless of their location or network environment. Other businesses can also benefit from the predictability and cost-efficiency of multi-network SIMs whether they are to be used in one country or internationally.

By providing access to multiple networks through a single SIM card, businesses can save on the costs associated with purchasing and managing multiple individual single-network SIM cards.

IoT connected city

Why do businesses use multi network SIM cards?

Using this important technology, businesses typically aim to:

  1. Enlarge their geographical coverage
  2. Increase service up-time
  3. Ensure resilient and cost-effective cross-border roaming
  4. Avoid local, regional, national or international service outages on a single network
  5. Enable management of connectivity beyond the retail services major individual networks provide (whose limited support is geared towards consumer mobile users or the very largest corporate accounts)
  6. Create scalable and efficient IoT deployments

Multi-network SIMs and the GSM mobile network infrastructure

While there are many obvious advantages to multi-network SIMs, using the existing GSM mobile network infrastructure in this way underpins many key public and commercial IoT services. A multi-network SIM does provide the ubiquitous access needed for those devices, but these devices need to be able to authenticate themselves on the various mobile networks and their location registers.

For example, a managed SIM with robust connectivity plans will enable its associated IoT device to connect to multiple networks, providing resilience, flexibility, and service performance. This ability to connect to the widest variety of mobile networks in a region or across borders means that IoT devices can stay connected to a secure and stable network without experiencing unexpected out-of-zone penalties. What’s more, research shows that in mobile environments, this multi-network capability helps increase overall capacity and improves data rates

Key benefits of using a multi-network SIM

There are many noteworthy reasons why businesses are turning to multi-network SIMs. Here are a few key benefits worth highlighting:

  • Network Resilience: Multi-network SIMs offer robustness against network outages by providing the ability to switch seamlessly between network providers.
  • Predictable Deployments: The control and flexibility that multi-network SIMs provide prevent excessive data costs during IoT deployments. All SIMs and devices are manageable from a dedicated connectivity platform or control centre.
  • Global Reach: Multi-Network SIMs boast international usability, spanning most countries and typically access to, 2, 3 or 4 networks in each, all under a single tariff and contract. They can be limited to specific regions to limit costs.
  • Network Steering: Our SIMs, which are unsteered as standard, can also be steered to always connect to the network with the strongest signal, making them perfect for failover use cases.
  • 5G Compatibility: Most multi-network SIMs are 5G-ready, ensuring you’re prepared for the introduction of newer networks.
  • Fixed IPs: The provision of both public and private static IP addresses helps maintain control over all your connections and devices.
  • Data Pooling and Aggregation: To avoid overspending on individual devices by pooling data and aggregating it so that high-use devices are compensated by lower-use ones. This makes data use and costs predictable over large deployments.
  • Transparent and Flexible Tariffs: Clear, cost-effective pricing across all tariffs. It is important that contracts are flexible, so you can cancel at any time with rolling monthly contracts to match product life cycles.

remote mountain town on a misty day

Role of user experience in multi-network SIM coverage

The mobile coverage of each network is debatable. Coverage maps are typically created by MNOs or through crowdsourcing. Coverage may be inconsistent, with new technologies often prioritised in areas with better economic prospects. This focus on profitability can result in poorer coverage in rural or less affluent areas.

Additionally, service gaps persist in big cities and the availability of 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks differs locally. This leads to coverage maps not accurately representing users’ experience. Crowdsourced data combines indoor and outdoor measurements and does not consider device features or limitations.

Various factors such as bad weather, radio shadows, buildings, and network system interactions can impact mobile signal strength. These factors are often overlooked. To accurately measure signal strength, it is advisable to include data from actual user experiences.

User experience is regularly observed to consider changes in signal and service availability within a mobile network due to various factors. This helps businesses using multi-network SIMs to confidently choose the best networks for their IoT devices, understanding any potential limitations or signal disruptions. The scope of mobile coverage for each network remains uncertain.

Network operators or crowdsourcing provide coverage maps. New technologies are deployed where profits are likely, leading to uneven coverage. This prioritises high-density areas over rural or poorer areas. Service voids exist even in major cities, with varying availability of different network generations.

Due to these factors, coverage maps may not accurately represent how well mobile networks actually work for users. Crowdsourcing data combines indoor and outdoor measurements without considering device differences. Various factors like bad weather, obstructions, and network interactions can also impact signal strength, but are often overlooked.

Due to the complexity of mobile networks, it is advised to incorporate user experiences into measurements. Monitoring user experiences helps consider changes in signal and service availability. This assists businesses utilising multi-network SIMs to make informed decisions.

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Challenges of using a multi-network SIM

While multi-network data SIM offer a plethora of benefits and are the ‘go-to’ choice for many businesses, it’s crucial to understand that network selection isn’t always determined by the SIM card alone. In fact, it’s often dictated by the device into which the SIM card is inserted. To illustrate, let’s delve into the functioning of these devices. When the device detects an issue with the network to which it’s currently connected, it doesn’t immediately compel the SIM card to switch to an alternative network. Rather, for most IoT devices, the process relies more on signal strength as an indicator of network selection. Consider this scenario: your device, embedded with a multi-network SIM, is connected to a network that shows a strong signal but isn’t able to communicate with a server on the internet. Despite the lack of data exchange, the hardware continues to perceive itself as ‘connected’ due to the high signal strength. From an outsider’s perspective, it might seem like your device is functioning perfectly fine; in reality, however, it’s merely a silent spectator in the world of data communication, unable to send or receive any data. This predicament underscores the need to not just rely on signal strength but also factor in the quality of the network connection. A robust, reliable connection is critical to ensure seamless data communication and, ultimately, the successful operation of your IoT devices. Understanding these subtleties can help businesses optimise their use of multi-network SIMs and circumvent any potential challenges.

How Caburn Telecom combats these challenges

At Caburn Telecom, we constantly monitor and test networks, often advising MNO problems to our clients in advance of the networks detecting problems themselves.

Our large client network also helps us to continuously monitor service levels and user experiences, forming a responsive and far-reaching mobile ecosystem for establishing high levels of quality of service and user experiences.

We also help our partners and clients future-proof rollouts by providing expert advice concerning network features, upgrades, or sunsets.

Multi-network IoT SIM design

Elevate your business with IoT

Caburn Telecom are an innovative and leading global provider of connectivity for Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.Our focus is the development of advanced mobile connectivity solutions and associated management systems.

Caburn Telecom’s IoT SIMs, chip-SIMs and eUICC eSIMs provide the flexibility and high service levels vital for distributed IoT devices to operate effectively. We provide multi-network capability together with the streamlined management of SIM populations. We provide a secure client portal that delivers easy-to-use interfaces for understanding and administering the connectivity of devices. 

Our innovative and flexible connectivity packages allow IoT service providers to maximise their assets and manage the operational life cycles of devices. We not only provide multi network SIM cards, but smart SIM cards that can detect network outages, multi IMSI multi network cards, roaming IoT SIM cards and single network SIM cards.

Learn more about multi-network SIMs and how we can help elevate your business by contacting our expert team today.