The Evolution of SIM Cards

Since 1991 when Giesecke and Devrient supplied the first commercial SIM card to a Finish Network Operator, these cards have evolved from simple mobile phone cards to IoT devices. Today over 7 billion devices connect to cellular networks around the world. The rise of IoT and 5G network is predicted to drive the growth from $6.5 billion in revenue to $20 billion by 2020. Embedded SIM (eSIM) and Remote SIM Provisioning (RSP) is increasingly disrupting the traditional market of SIM cards.

IoT SIM Cards now power a variety of different technologies. People tend to use various international and travel cards replacing them with outmoded local SIMs.

The traditional SIM card

The traditional SIM card is a piece of hardware which is removable. The SIM card stores an operator’s profile, which enables identification and authentication of the SIM card with the selected mobile networks.

The physical SIM card has significantly reduced in size. Figure 1 illustrated the physical evolution of the SIM card.



Figure 1


Embedded SIM and Remote Provisioning

With the introduction of embedded SIM and remote provisions, the idea of traditional SIM cards has become outmoded. Embedded SIMs, also eSIM or eUICC, are designed to remotely manage multiple network operator connections. They are compliant with GSMA specifications. These cards are physically embedded into the device, which means it cannot be removed.

Remote Provisioning can work on multiple operator networks. It is the ability to remotely change the SIM profile without the need to physically change the SIM card itself. This SIM has extra memory and can hold more than one operator’s profile.

When a consumer purchases a service package, the operator profile is downloaded and saved on the SIM memory. When the same consumer purchases a second operator’s package, the new operator’s profile is downloaded and saved on the same SIM, and the consumer can swap between the two operator’s profiles.

With the ability to work on multiple operator networks, the embedded SIM and remote provision disrupt the specific, fixed profiles which were pre-provisioned into the SIMs during manufacture.

SIM Cards for IoT or M2M SIMs

With technological advancement, SIM cards have penetrated into the field of IoT. IoT SIM cards are also known as M2M SIMs. They provide the connectivity for automated processes. The standard cellular mobile SIM does not offer the same functionalities as IoT SIM cards do.

Smart SIMs integrate well with many devices providing a means to identify and authenticate users and store their data. They can be used in ATM cards and building security access cards.


Smart SIMs deliver multi-operator coverage and superior data service quality. They also provide for resilience to outages irrespective of whether the application is global, regional or local.

To differentiate between IoT and M2M we can think of the network of everyday devices that are connected to the internet, which is IoT. IoT drives M2M. It is the process by which two “things” traverse data between them. It means that processes are automated, and there is no need for human interaction.

Why would someone use M2M rather than a standard mobile SIM card? It’s clear that you can’t always rely on fixed Internet connection and that cellular connection can be far more beneficial.

A standards mobile SIM card does not offer the same functionalities. M2M SIM cards are able to provide you with GPRS, 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity. You can also aggregate data across your SIM estate, which means that you can share data across all of your connected devices.

With M2M SIM cards you can have remote access to your devices. You can also use multi-network M2M SIM. With multi-network SIMs you can roam networks on a steered or non-steered basis.

Travel SIM Cards and International SIM Cards

In line with M2Ms, the world is enjoying now cheap travel SIM cards and international SIM cards. They automatically connect to the best signal available on the network. It is a small electronic chip which inserts into a compatible GSM device.

Today many travelers prefer international SIM cards to local cards due to their cost-effectiveness. If you are traveling internationally, your telephone bill may be as much as your airplane ticket cost. With Travel SIM Cards and International SIM cards, you can save a lot as low as  $0.03/MB.

Using your existing SIM card is not a good idea when traveling worldwide. You will spend a fortune on roaming charges. Rather than pay too high roaming charges you can grab an international SIM card.


Most international cards guarantee connectivity in more than 200 countries (HelloSIM). The travelers can enjoy free incoming calls in selected countries and cheaper outgoing calls across the globe. You can save a lot of money since the international card data roaming charges are only a fraction of regular SIM card data services. Standard roaming charges are approximately ten times higher compared with international cards. You can access the Internet from a range of different devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

Buying an international SIM card is not the best idea if you’re on a long-term trip, but if you are always on the road, it is not worth investing in a new SIM card every time you land.



Keeping up with the developments of digitalization has become a requirement of the day.

We witness the evolution of SIM cards from traditional hardware to IoT devices. Now smart SIM cards provide a new form of digitalization and easy access to connectivity.

In today’s world, international SIM cards are considered a better option for local or regular SIM cards. They are a cheaper alternative to traditional SIM cards.

As technology advances, we predict to see more developments with increased revenue and growth. SIM card as we know it to eventually come to an end. The new SIM will make switching telecom providers a lot easier for everyone.

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