Why Always-Active SIMs are Good for IoT

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Why Always-Active SIMs are Good for IoT
Illustration: © IoT For All

Activating and deactivating SIMs isn’t something you should have to think about. Always-active IoT SIMs eliminate time wasted on managing SIM states and costs.

Companies that offer IoT solutions at scale commonly struggle with managing device activity states and monitoring usage caps. Whether or not you are paying a subscription for data typically depends on whether or not your SIM card is active.

Paying SIM subscriptions for devices that aren’t in use is a huge problem for IoT solutions. Here are some common examples:

  • A lot of time can elapse between testing devices and devices being put to use in the field. No one wants to be paying for connectivity while devices sit on a shelf.
  • It’s common for IoT solutions to be used seasonally or intermittently. Some solutions may produce value in the summer months but be dormant in the winter, for example.

The typical workaround is to manage the active states of SIMs in IoT connectivity management platforms. Users can use APIs or log into platforms to activate or deactivate SIMs to reduce subscription costs. Some cellular IoT connectivity providers have developed workarounds with tools like Zapier or offer different pricing plans for testing and operation.

This still adds up to time spent managing SIM states. When commercial, development, and customer success teams start to plan their days around SIM management, there is a problem.

Reduce Time Managing SIM States With Always-Active SIMs

SIM handling needs to be less complicated to help IoT solutions scale. Imagine how much more productive an organization could be if no one had to worry about cellular data subscription fees for devices.

Many of the problems with SIM management come from commercial decisions, while others come from the technical limitations of a platform or connectivity infrastructure.

The only real way to simplify SIM management is to take it off the list of things to do.

SIM cards from most mobile network operators come with a bunch of rules that users need to think about such as, does the SIM need to be stopped, put to sleep, made inactive, turned off, or turned on?

Keeping track of SIM card statuses can turn into a full-time job and drain resources for a scaling solution in no time. Sometimes workflows or integrations will change the state of a SIM automatically, but this always adds new work, maintenance overhead, and costs that make it hard to scale.

Fortunately, new business models are emerging for IoT solution developers where you don’t have to worry about the different states of SIMs every day. Now it’s possible to benefit from always-active SIMs.

What are Always-Active SIMs?

Always-active SIMs mean that you won’t be charged for SIMs that aren’t being used, no matter what stage your business is in.

Connectivity costs for devices are managed on a pay-as-you-go basis, billed in monthly increments depending on whether or not a device connects to a network and transmits data.

If a device does not connect in a given month, it is not charged.

Always-active SIMs, aka always-on SIMs, are a relatively new concept for network operators. This doesn’t mean the activate/deactivate functionality of SIM management doesn’t exist. If you want to take certain devices offline for security or customer concerns, you can still do so, but there are no financial penalties. You run your business and fleet the way you want.

Two Major Benefits of Using Always-Active SIMs

By simply removing the need to manage the active state of SIMs, businesses can focus their energy on other tasks and improve ROI.

Cut Costs on Unused Devices

Why should you pay for a SIM if you’re not going to use it? For IoT to solve problems like water shortages, food production, and inefficient supply chains, companies need a better way to run their solutions.

Only paying for SIM cards that are active and send data in a given month is a boon for IoT. Companies can buy as many SIMs as they need to meet their quarterly and annual goals without having to worry about the exact date of deployment or shelf lifetime.

Beware, some connectivity providers will automatically turn off a SIM card if it hasn’t sent any data in a certain time frame. Always-active SIMs by nature shouldn’t and don’t have this logic built into the commercial model.

In short, you don’t want another billing management platform draining resources. Instead, focus on building a more efficient and sustainable business.

Streamline Testing and Deployment

When a SIM card is active for a month, it lets the device send and receive data, which will incur expected costs. When a SIM is not being used, a device is not communicating with Radio Access Networks (RANs) and, with the always-active SIM model, you don’t have to pay for it.

It’s that easy. You only pay when your device is creating value. You don’t have to worry about setting up those time-consuming workflows and workarounds like Zapier to save money.

During development, there are often problems that will slow down production and deployment. MVNO/MNO SIM cards that aren’t being used usually cost money every month, which puts more pressure on development teams. This is less of a concern with always-active SIMs and you aren’t penalized for taking the time to develop a better product.

Always-Active SIMs vs. Typical IoT SIMs

Which features of a connectivity platform make the most sense for your company will depend on the stage and size of your business. But always-active SIMs will help any business that needs its devices to be connected.

Always-active SIMs could be a good idea for a startup that wants to make devices quickly but is concerned about having to pay a high overhead cost for SIMs and data. Likewise, if you operate an enterprise and want to make your IoT-enabled business or fleet of devices more cost-effective, always-active SIMs will help.

Always-active SIMs are the best way to achieve your goal of making devices that are more reliable, efficient, and profitable.

However, eliminating SIM activation and deactivation is a new way of thinking, and the concept of leaving SIMs “active” at all times requires a mindset shift for IoT solutions.

Check out the table below if you are still in doubt. It makes the comparison between the status quo and always-active SIMs easier.

Always-active SIMs Typical MVNOs / MNOs
SIMs are active by default SIMs come inactive or paused
ZERO fees for changing status Fees for changing activity status
ZERO fees for unused SIMs Fees for unused SIMs
SIM cards provide unlimited connectivity SIMs can deactivate if unused within a specific time frame
ZERO time wasted managing SIM states Full-time job determining SIM activity



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