M2M SIM card: the ultimate guide to connect your IoT device
What is an M2M SIM card?
The M2M SIM card is a reliable solution to connect your machine-to-machine devices and for all phases of your project: from PoC, to deployment and finally scal
- Consumer SIM card or M2M SIM: what are the differences?
- Multi-operator or single-operator, which one to choose?
- SIM card with LTE-M and Nb-IoT network
- International deployment with permanent roaming
- Fixed or dynamic IP, public or private?
- M2M Pricing model: shared pool or pay-as-you-go?
- SIM card with data, SMS or voice: the concept of barring
- Ensure reliable connectivity with no-steering SIM card
- M2M package without commitment
- Connectivity platform to manage your SIM cards
- Which SIM card format is right for your object?
- eSIM (eUICC): the future of the SIM card
- M2M SIM card applications
- How is the price of an M2M package calculated?
- The step-by-step method to choose your IoT connecitvity subscription
Consumer SIM card and M2M SIM card: what are the differences?
Consumer SIM cards: uses, limits and prohibitions
The consumer SIM card that we all use on our phones, tablets or connected watches fullfil normal consumption needs: making calls between people, surfing on Internet, etc.
Therefore, the classic SIM card has been designed from day one around consumer uses.
Although classic SIM cards can work in connected devices, they are not adapted for machine to machine use:
- They are not suitable for extreme environments;
- They are subject to a roaming connection time limit;
- It is impossible to manage several SIM cards around a single shared offer;
- No possibility to negotiate adapted tariffs according to the quantities ordered;
- No SIM management platform with the ability to activate SIM cards on demand.
To stop users to use normal SIM card, telecom operators clearly mention in their general sales conditions the prohibition to use their "traditional" SIM card in alarms with GSM or any device not used for interpersonal communication.
Be aware that in some cases, your SIM card may be blacklisted from the operator's network if it is detected as M2M usage.
Example: sending a data packet every minute.
To overcome these problems, the M2M SIM card for connected devices was born.
M2M SIM card: use cases and benefits
The M2M SIM card is a technology designed for connected devices. It addresses the connectivity issues of businesses and industries.
You can find them everywhere and in all types of places: elevators, payment terminals, smart meters, or even rubbish cans.
The machine-to-machine card fixes the limitations of the classic SIM card.
Here are the 5 key benefits:
M2M SIM cards have been designed and manufactured to survive harsh conditions, withstanding extreme temperatures and movement.
As a result, they are more future-proof than standard mobile SIM cards.
As with classic cards, you have access to fast, secure connectivity and global coverage.
M2M SIM cards, on the other hand, can be multi-carrier. They will have access to different local operators. The device, on its first attempt to connect to the netowrk, will ask the SIM card to scan all the available operator networks.
Generally, the device will be connected according to its criteria. In general, it is based on the strongest network signal.
3. Shared pool
Shared pool allows you to integrate your connected devices into a single unified M2M offer. Your bill is calculated on all your objects. This is not the case with traditional mobile offers.
4. SIM Management
When deploying multiple devices, you will need a connectivity platform to simplify the management of your M2M fleet.
This is called "SIM Management".
You can manage your own activations and deactivations on demand and regardless of the telecom operator.
5. Remote maintenance and diagnostics
To tackle device maintenance andremote management of devices, you must use public IP or fixed private IP solutions via private APNs that are not available to the general public.
Multi-operator or single-operator, which one to choose?
The limits of single-operator M2M SIM card
Auxilium is a company specialising in alarms. It sends one of its technicians on a trip to carry out an installation at a customer's home.
The technician, not knowing which operator is working on site, takes with him the SIM cards of the different local telecom operators to avoid having to travel several times during his installation.
Once on site, he installs his equipment.
To make it work on the GSM network, he starts testing a single operator SIM card to see if it picks up the network or not.
If it doesn't, he tests a 2nd SIM card on another network, then a 3rd until he finds the card that picks up the right network...
When the installation is finished, the technician puts the other unused cards in...
the glove compartment of his service car. Then he forgets about them, for a long period of hibernation.
The only downside is that the company continues to pay for these forgotten cards.
The single-operator M2M SIM card connects to a single operator defined during its setup.
Once activated, it only has access to this operator, like the SIM cards usually found in mobile phones.
This means that in the event of network problems, the card may disconnect until the network is functional again.
If your connected objects are mobile or if you have no idea where your future objects will be located, this option can be problematic.
But that was before.
The advantage of multi-carrier SIM card
Now, with a multi-operator M2M SIM card, installing a device is a breeze.
Once inside, the device scans the network for the best reception.
How does the multi-operator SIM card work?
The multi-operator M2M SIM cards have the ability to connect to different local networks in each country. In France, the Matooma M2M SIM card can connect to Orange, SFR, Bouygues or Free.
Here is how they work:
- The connected device will ask the SIM card to scan the different networks available.
- The SIM card will then send it the result and the object will connect to the best network (e.g. Orange) available according to its own criteria, generally the quality of the signal and the strength of the network at a given time.
- In the event of a network outage, the object will be able to restart a scan of the available networks and will be able to connect to a new network using the SIM (for example SFR or Bouygues).
This system allows you to improve service continuity, limit the number of interventions by technical experts and therefore reduce travel costs while optimising productivity.
M2M SIM card with LTE-M and NB-IoT network
Based on the cellular network, LTE-M and NB-IoT are an extension of 4G/LTE, providing access to a reliable, future-proof and high-performance low-power offer (LPWAN).
These two networks complement the market of existing LPWAN offers such as Sigfox and LoRa.
Based on existing telecom equipment, these networks do not require the installation of a specific infrastructure.
Three main objectives of LTE-M and NB-IoT
- Increase the autonomy of terminals;
- Reduce costs with cheaper cellular modules;
- Communicate more efficiently in buildings or underground locations.
International deployment with roaming
The international deployment of connected objects is a real challenge for companies using IoT.
In order to guarantee success, it is necessary to be able to rely on a reliable and efficient solution such as the multi-operator M2M SIM card, which offers a unique advantage: permanent roaming.
Why permanent roaming?
Permanent roaming allows you to deploy your objects internationally without worrying about negotiating contracts with operators in the target countries.
This is handled transparently by your M2M SIM card provider.
With IoT, a simpler route that makes sense: contract with a partner that provides global connectivity through a single platform.
To ensure coverage beyond its established base, the connectivity provider must leverage its roaming agreements with other MNOs or MVNOs or seek new partners to fill coverage gaps.
The single contract approach helps businesses reduce complexity, as the responsibility for global coverage lies with the provider, rather than the company supplying the M2M objects or services.
Fixed or dynamic IP, public or private IP
Although most of you understand what an IP address is, many of you do not see the difference between fixed, dynamic, private and public IP addresses and what should be used to connect your objects.
If this applies to you, follow the guide.
Why an IP address?
First, let's go back to basics and look at what an IP address actually is.
IP stands for "Internet Protocol".
Great, but what else?
An IP address is a unique number that identifies an object connected to a network (Internet, local network, etc.). This address allows an object to communicate easily with other objects.
Let's take an analogy: you are asked to send a parcel to your uncle in Alsace. The first thing to ask is: what is his postal address?
Same thing with your connected objects.
For your server to communicate with objects, it needs one crucial piece of information: its IP address.
The only problem is that there are several types of IP addresses that you need to know about and, above all, you need to understand how they work.
Let's dig a little deeper.
What type of IP address should I choose?
Choosing your type of IP address to connect your objects can be complicated at first.
This problem becomes simpler if you rephrase it as follows:
Do you need remote access to your objects? Remote access allows you to perform maintenance on your objects such as updating the software.
If the answer is YES, then fixed and private IP is a possibility.
Here is why.
Fixed IP vs. dynamic IP
With static/fixed addressing, each object in your park is identified with a unique IP.
Your server can easily access your object by registering its IP once and for all.
Note: You can also access your objects with a dynamic IP.
The only drawback is that you have to implement and manage the DNS protocol, which is expensive and requires technical skills.
Private IP vs. public IP
Fixed public IP is becoming increasingly scarce. Obtaining one has become expensive.
With a fixed private IP address, your objects will connect to the operator network and exchange data via a secure link to your information system.
The private APN will ensure the link between your object, the telecom infrastructure and your information system.
You can thus access all your objects remotely, securely and in real time.
Product Manager - Matooma
❝ For small quantities of objects and first deployments, you can opt for fixed public IP. The advantage of this solution lies mainly in its simplicity of implementation, since it does not require a physical and/or complex solution.
However, be careful to secure the connections, as the IP address is public and can be more easily used by people with malicious intent. ❞
Which pricing model: custom, shared or pay-as-you-go?
When evaluating their options, most companies choose a standard IoT/M2M package, rather than developing a customised offering, because they don't know their connectivity needs and usage patterns.
Without this information, they often pay for unnecessary features, such as a data volume allowance that far exceeds their needs.
Don't fall into this trap.
Building a custom IoT subscription may seem daunting, but a simple approach can help.
Here's how to do it.
The M2M SIM card is often offered with two types of package: customised shared or pay-as-you-go.
If you are just starting your project, you usually do not yet know the data usage of your object.
In this case, opt for the metered package.
Advantage: you only pay for what your objects use.
This type of package is also suitable for projects where the object's activity is subject to seasonality (e.g. agriculture, tracking, etc.).
If you are at an advanced stage of your project, in the deployment or scale-up phase, and you have full control over your fleet, the customised shared offer is the right choice.
Advantage: your connectivity costs are predictable. You avoid any surprises.
With this model, all your SIM cards consume data from a shared pool. If one SIM card overuses its initial profile, it can be caught up by its neighbour who has used less.
This avoids being charged for the overuse of a single card but at the average level of all the cards included in your offer.
Connectivity Advisor - Matooma
❝ By choosing a flexible connectivity partner, you can easily switch from one offering to another if your needs change or your business model evolves. ❞
SIM card with data, SMS or voice: the concept of barring
The concept of barring is simple: to be able to activate/deactivate one or more uses on your M2M SIM card.
A common example: activate data, deactivate voice and SMS.
What's the point?
Say hello to the company HealthX.
It wants to launch its IoT project in the medical sector and it has an exclusive need for data for monitoring purposes. However, it has opted for an M2M package without barring.
At the end of the month, she finds herself out of pocket because one of her objects sent 100 SMS due to a software bug.
Don't laugh, because this scenario happens a lot.
HealthX could have avoided this unpleasant surprise by opting for a "barring" package including a data-only SIM card. That way she can disable the uses she doesn't need: in this example, SMS and voice.
How to ensure reliable connectivity with the SIM card without steering
Here's a simple question you should definitely ask your IoT connectivity provider: are your M2M SIM cards with or without steering?
Steering? What is steering?
Don't panic, here is the explanation.
The steering with problem
A multi-operator SIM card with steering will favour a preferred telecom network.
Generally based on cost reasons, the SIM card, when scanning, will send to the object the network that is placed as number 1 in its list of networks without taking into account
network quality aspects.
Each time it connects, the object will be forced to always connect to the same network.
Can you see the problem?
You may end up with a (pseudo) multi-operator card that will prioritise ONE and ONLY one network.
That's a shame.
The solution: a SIM card without steering
In contrast, a multi-operator SIM card without steering will not take into account any cost aspect.
When initiating a connection, the object will ask the SIM card to scan all available operator networks.
The SIM card will send it the result and the object will connect, according to its own criteria (usually signal quality), to the best available network.
From now on, always ask your IoT network provider if the card it offers is steering-free.
M2M package without commitment
This is the basic choice when you start your IoT project.
Given the uncertainty of this phase (feasibility test, viability test...) a SIM card with a no-commitment subscription is the most sensible choice.
But this option is not limited to this issue.
The no-commitment option is also relevant when you want to connect your objects in a one-off project: monitoring a construction site over X months.
Finally, the advantage of a no-commitment subscription is that you are not locked into a 12 or 24 month package that you cannot terminate.
Connectivity platform to manage your SIM cards
With a single object, the problem of managing a fleet does not even arise: you have no problem of visibility on your fleet.
As soon as you go into "massive deployment" mode, it becomes complicated for you to manage ten or a hundred objects without using a tool that gives you a global view of your consumption, invoices and stock.
This is where the connectivity platform comes into its own.
The ultimate goal of this IoT platform is to manage the complexity of your fleet and to give you control over it.
It addresses the following 5 issues:
- How to manage your IoT SIM card stock in a smooth way?
- How to have a global view of your connected objects?
- How to manage consumption and avoid surprises?
- How to create a billing system that is understandable to finance?
- How to be quickly and efficiently in contact with customer service in case of technical problems?
The three main functionalities of an M2M connectivity platform are :
- Activate/suspend/terminate your multi-operator SIM cards on demand;
- Simplify your finances with a single invoice for your entire fleet;
- Monitor your consumption closely and anticipate overruns.
Ultimately, this is your point of contact for managing your partnership with your connectivity provider.
Which SIM card format is suitable for your object?
You will certainly ask yourself this question when you want to buy M2M SIM cards.
You have to pay attention to this issue to avoid one thing: ordering SIM cards that are not tailored to your purpose.
This will result in unnecessary time and money being wasted on your project.
Hence the objective of this section: to inform you about the different formats and types of SIMs and their use cases.
The 3 models of M2M SIM card
1. Standard SIM
Most connected objects operate under normal conditions. In this case, you opt for the standard (non-hardened) plastic SIM card. It is the twin of the classic SIM card but adapted to M2M/IoT use.
On the other hand, it is not the best format for extreme conditions.
2. Hardened SIM
This reinforced format is more durable. It is designed to withstand extreme conditions: high/low temperatures, vibrations, corrosion. The ruggedised SIM card is suitable for industrial deployment.
3. Soldered SIM
With the same characteristics of resistance to extreme conditions, this format gives you maximum durability and security.
This format is welded directly to your object.
It has two advantages:
- Durabilité maximale face à des conditions extrêmes
- Aucun risque de vol de la carte SIM
- Maximum durability under extreme conditions
- No risk of SIM card theft
An important point: each model can be equipped with one or more SIM card formats.
There are 5 formats in total, one of which (1FF) is permanently discontinued.
Let's find out now.
The 5 formats of the M2M SIM card
1FF (full size)
For the record, this iconic format was the first to appear in 1991 (the same year as the OM European Cup finalists) and was the size of a credit card.
Note that this format is no longer used in modern devices.
This is the industry standard size of SIM card. It is typically used in devices such as vehicles, vending machines and payment terminals.
Le format 3FF est 2x plus petit que le 2FF et est utilisé dans des objets plus mobiles comme les GPS ou les tablettes. The 3FF format is 2x smaller than the 2FF and is used in more mobile objects like GPS or tablets.
This is the most recent SIM card format (2012). It has the advantage of being small in size: 40% smaller than the 3FF format. This allows it to be easily integrated into tiny objects.
M2M SIM cards with this format are usually soldered into the objects.
The MFF2 is perfectly suited for manufacturers of connected objects who wish to integrate the SIM card upstream for two reasons:
- Test the functioning of the object during the manufacturing process.
- Offer connectivity to its customers directly.
eSIM (eUICC): the future of the SIM card
The eSIM aims to replace the traditional SIM card.
Its key promise: choose your operators as you wish in one click and on demand.
Operator profiles can be added/removed remotely, which means that the eSIM card never needs to be removed or replaced.
This technology represents a big advantage for manufacturers: being able to put "blank" SIM cards directly into their manufactured items.
The customer can choose his list of operators according to their costs, his need for coverage, etc.
How is this different from the multi-operator M2M SIM card?
The multi-operator SIM card is set up with a single operator profile and through roaming agreements you have several local operators available where your objects can connect depending on the signal quality.
In contrast, the eSIM card contains a pool of local operator profiles which you select yourself. Your object then decides which operator to connect to according to the rules you have set up.
Don't get this confused: eSIM is not defined by its shape or size, as it can dress up several formats like its cousin the SIM. What really defines eSIM is its software technology: eUICC.
Should you choose for eSIM to connect your devices?
Companies should carefully weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of eSIM before deciding to go for this solution.
The infrastructure costs of implementing this type of solution may still seem prohibitive and can only be amortised on very large projects (> 10,000 devices).
Not to mention the operators (MNOs), who are not necessarily driving the expansion of this technology today. These offers will be associated with a commitment to avoid the transfer of fleets as much as possible.
Further information: Will eSIM replace the SIM?
Examples of M2M SIM card applications
The alarm SIM card is integrated into the GSM transmission module of the alarm system. It can send alerts in case of intrusion or send a video recording to a remote server.
The SIM card is used in case of a breakdown in the lift. The lift can send an alert to the fire brigade or any other prepared number.
The M2M SIM card can also send data back to a server to monitor the status of the lift and avoid breakdowns. This is called predictive maintenance.
A GPS tracker allows position data to be communicated either via SMS or the Internet. This is possible thanks to the M2M SIM card for GPS trackers.
GPS trackers are useful for monitoring vehicle fleets or goods (vaccines, valuable materials, IT equipment, etc). This is called asset tracking.
How is the price of an M2M package calculated?
Let's get down to business.
The price of your machine to machine package is calculated on 3 main criteria:
- Type of usage: data, SMS or voice;
- Volume of usage: MB of data, number of SMS or number of voice minutes;
- Forecast of the number of objects to be connected.
Then you can fine-tune your offer according to your needs:
- Choice of a fixed IP address ;
- A private APN to secure your data flows;
- A metered or customised shared package.
Finally, the price of your package may be affected depending on whether you have a contract with or without a commitment.
The question of the cost of an M2M package depends on several factors as you have just seen.
Having a base price to get an idea is an approach with its own weaknesses: making estimates on a price basis that does not correspond to your real needs.
The best thing to do is to contact your connectivity provider directly.
They will be able to advise you on the offer that meets your connectivity needs.
The step-by-step method for choosing your M2M subscription
1. Determine where you stand
An IoT project usually goes through three stages:
- Prototyping/testing phase;
- Deployment/production phase;
- Scale-up phase.
The test phase allows you to test the feasibility/viability of your IoT project.
Once proven, your project moves into the deployment phase: from a test environment to a production environment.
Once the objects are deployed, you can gradually scale up while ensuring optimal cost management: this is called scaling.
Throughout these 3 steps, the M2M SIM card can help you to address your connectivity issues.
Here is how.
This phase of the project raises many doubts about the viability of your project.
In this phase, your objective is unique: to have a working prototype as soon as possible.
The plug-n-play aspect of the M2M SIM card makes it relevant at this stage.
Depending on your supplier, you may opt for test SIM cards and a no-commitment package.
The objective is to eliminate the risk of ending up with a package that is binding for several years.
The deployment phase is the stage where your object moves from a test environment to a production environment.
The transition to production comes with its own challenges: ensuring maximum coverage of the objects, monitoring the objects to anticipate or detect any malfunction.
The multi-operator SIM card will ensure continuity of M2M service.
To monitor your park, the management platform gives you the keys to ensure your deployment with serenity.
This phase is decisive in the future of your project.
The worst failures are those that are due to poor preparation of your own growth.
During this stage, you should ask yourself questions about important elements:
- How will I ensure the maintenance and remote access of my objects?
- How can I strengthen the security of my data flows?
- How can I optimise my connectivity costs?
In terms of maintenance, the private APN could be an interesting solution to set up a remote access system to your objects. This way you can carry out maintenance tasks such as updates.
The security aspect of your network is indisputable. For this, you can opt for an IPSec VPN solution.
Your provider can help you set it up without worrying about the infrastructure behind it.
The massive deployment of your objects requires you to keep a close eye on your costs.
The aim is to increase the number of objects while controlling their costs.
The pooling of assets is a powerful lever in this respect.
To be used without moderation.
2. Choose the right partner
To end on a high note, here are the 11 things an M2M provider should be able to offer you.
Connectivity Advisor - Matooma
The complete checklist for choosing your supplier
✓ Multi operator to ensure maximum coverage and international presence.
✓ No steering to ensure your objects benefit from the best network.
✓ Private APN and VPN to secure the transport of your data flows.
✓ Management platform to manage your SIM card fleet.
✓ Offers without commitment.
✓ Test SIM cards.
✓ Ability to block usage (data, SMS or voice) with barring.
✓ Cards available in several formats (2FF, 3FF, 4FF and MFF2).
✓ Flexible pricing depending on your business model: metered or shared.
✓ An LPWAN option (LTE-M or NB-IoT) according to your needs.
✓ An expert M2M customer service to help you in case of problems.
This checklist is an essential tool for sifting through the different offers you find on the market.
You are now armed with all the knowledge, tips and best practices to achieve your goal:
Making your IoT project a success.