SIM Form Factors & Material Grades: Determining the Proper SIM Card for Your Application

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 5:00:00 AM Carmi Brandis  
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When purchasing SIM cards for the development of an M2M application, there are a few questions that any IoT developer needs to ask: Within what environment will the device typically operate? What is the size of the device in which the SIM card will be used? And what material grade — standard or industrial — is ideal for maximum durability? For business owners applying a ready-made IoT solution to optimize operations, these developer determinations will act as a SIM card purchasing guide to achieve the best use of a device’s M2M connectivity. In order to make SIM card purchasing decisions, it is important for developers and business owners alike to understand the advantages associated with different SIM card sizes and material grades, and how each can best be used to create and implement innovative IoT solutions.

Throughout their history, SIM cards have come in four standard sizes, which are referred to as form factors. SIM form factors pertain only to the size and shape of the card. The processing and connectivity power of the underlying SIM technology is not determined by form factor or material grade, so companies that are looking for 2G, 3G, or 4G LTE connectivity have the option to select the form factor and material grade that will best suit their IoT needs.

Form Factor

Common Name

Dimensions

Recommended for Industrial and Automotive Applications

2FF

Mini

25mm x 15mm x 0.76mm

3FF

Micro

15mm x 12mm x 0.76mm

4FF

Nano

12.3mm × 8.8mm × 0.67mm

MFF2

Embedded

6mm x 5mm x >1mm

 

2FF SIMs, or mini-SIM cards, were the industry standard form factor for nearly 15 years until the introduction of 3FF micro-SIMs and 4FF nano-SIMs in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Unlike the obsolete 1FF “full-sized” SIMs, however, each of these three SIM sizes have advantages in the modern IoT market that reflect a SIM card’s intended application.

sim123.png

To determine the proper form factor and material grade for a specific IoT/M2M technology application, developers must consider the size of the M2M device they are creating, its working environment, and how accessible the SIM needs to be for the user to remove and replace. For business owners, they must look at the various IoT solutions being offered in the market, decide which devices will provide the greatest improvement to operations, and purchase the SIM cards designed to integrate with those devices.

The Anatomy of a SIM Card

The most important part of any SIM card is its contact chip. The contact chip contains the circuitry that holds the network information, authentication code, memory, and all other functionality that makes the SIM card operate. Surrounding the contact chip is a plastic casing that protects it from being damaged by its operational environment or when being removed or inserted.

Industrial SIMS and Form Factors by Application

As illustrated in the image above, the 4FF nano-SIM has barely any protective plastic surrounding its contact chip. Nano-SIMs also are slightly thinner than their mini and micro counterparts, and they arrange the circuitry of the contact chip differently. The compact dimensions of a nano-SIM makes it the ideal form factor to use for smaller IoT-enabled devices that, typically, will not be exposed to harsh environments, such as clinical wearables that monitor vital signs or pill dispensers that help patients and healthcare providers track medication adherence.

When it comes to industrial or automotive M2M applications, space usually is not at such a premium as it is in wearables. On top of that, IoT applications, like GPS tracking devices for major fleet operations, typically expose their SIM cards to elements that increase the likelihood of corrosion or call upon their SIMs to operate in extreme high or low temperature environments. For these applications, it is best to use industrial SIM cards that are constructed to be more durable than standard SIMs, and whose contact chips are better protected in 2FF mini or 3FF micro form factor casings.

MFF2 or Embedded SIM

The newest form factor that developers are utilizing in their IoT solutions is the MFF2 embedded SIM. Embedded SIMs are soldered directly onto a circuit board and are designed to last for the entire life cycle of the device. Directly embedding SIMs increases the reliability of the SIM in terms of reducing malfunction due to shocks, corrosion and other environmental factors. Additionally, the GSMA’s Embedded SIM Specification provides a standard mechanism for remote provisioning and management of M2M connections, allowing for over-the-air (OTA) subscription changes from one operator to another. As embedded SIMs become more common, remote provisioning is intended to provide greater long-term SIM security and lower SIM cost. The smaller size and durable construction of embedded MFF2 SIMs enables IoT developers to push the boundaries of how they utilize SIM connectivity to provide M2M solutions.

Why Neo

Neo’s flexible design puts you in control of your IoT/M2M connectivity and gets you to market faster with our simple, self-service platform. Reduce your total cost of ownership with intuitive tools and always be in control of your solution—with no contracts, no minimums, no setup fees, or cancellation fees. Pay only for the data you use and the devices you connect, and monitor all SIM activity using the intuitive AerPort IoT platform.

To discover what form factor and durability grade is right for your IoT application, contact Neo today.

Topics: industrial IoT, SIM cards, iot sims, MFF2, nano-sims, 2FF