What Is an M2M SIM Card?

Although most of us use at least one SIM card with our devices (typically smartphones), so many don’t really understand the concept of the SIM and how it functions to ‘connect’ our device to our chosen network.

SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module (or Subscriber Identification Module) and is basically an IC (Integrated Circuit) with the core function to securely store your identity and subscriber data, which are used to identify and authenticate subscribers of network providers. In a smartphone application, for example, the data stored on your SIM will tell the network provider your identity, which plans you’ve subscribed to, the data/text/voice limit remaining, and so on.

M2M, on the other hand, stands for “machine to machine”, and as the name suggests, refers to how the M2M SIM (more specifically, the device/machine containing the SIM card) data is shared directly between the devices and/or the management software that manages these devices. This is as opposed to traditional SIM where the data is first shared between a device and a server (transmission tower) before being sent to another device.

Since M2M SIM cards are most commonly used in IoT deployments, the terms “M2M SIM card” and “IoT SIM card” are often used interchangeably.

It’s also important to note that M2M SIM cards are not eSIMs, although there are eSIMs that function as M2M SIMs. An eSIM (embedded SIM), is a type of SIM form factor where the SIM doesn’t come in the form of plastic cards, but rather as an IC/chip that is embedded/integrated into the device itself.

Why M2M SIM Rather Than Traditional SIM Cards?

Why can’t we simply use regular SIM cards on IoT deployments? Simply put, a traditional mobile SIM card doesn’t offer the same features and functionalities offered by M2M SIMs that are critical to IoT deployments:

  1. Durability

IoT devices and sensors are often deployed in remote areas with harsh conditions like extreme vibrations, extremely hot/cold temperatures, and more. With that being said, regular SIM cards in our smartphones aren’t solely designed for these implementations.

There are, for example, IoT sensors that are deployed underwater in the middle of the ocean with extreme pressures surrounding them.

M2M SIM cards, on the other hand, are designed to be more durable to withstand these harsh conditions. Depending on the form factor, they can even last for up to a decade. The eSIM (embedded SIM) form factor is considered to be the most durable out of all the other form factors since it is integrated and protected by the body of the device.

  1. Remote SIM Provisioning

Standard SIM cards, for example, those in our mobile phones, are typically locked to a single network carrier, and they can only keep the device connected to a network.

M2M SIM cards, however, are designed so they can be activated, monitored, and managed in bulk remotely via an IoT management software or platform.

This is typically done by making the M2M SIM card capable of accessing multiple network operators, allowing the users to switch between networks on a non-steered or steered basis. (In steered roaming, the M2M SIM would always default to one network even when a better signal is available).

Using non-steered roaming can be useful for IoT applications on the move (e.g. autonomous vehicles), but you’ll need an appropriate IoT data plan that enables you to access any network in the locations you have specified. Truphone for Things M2M SIM cards, for example, offer coverage in 188 countries while also offering full Remote SIM provisioning Support.

  1. Data Plan Aggregations

Another important feature of M2M SIM cards, when compared to regular SIM cards, is the data plan. An IoT network might involve many different interconnected devices, and businesses looking to implement IoT automation might require multiple M2M SIM cards (which can reach thousands in numbers).

In such cases, a data plan that allows aggregation is very important, so you can reduce or even eliminate the risk of incurring charges when some IoT sensors are overusing data. For example, when some of your devices overuse data while some others are underusing it, then both will be aggregated to the same plan to allow better cost-efficiency.

Truphone also provides the ability to monitor the status of your SIM estate through a dedicated IoT management platform, allowing you to monitor data usage and SIM activity and also to activate and deactivate M2M SIMs as needed, while allowing you to aggregate your data usage. Every M2M SIM card added to your IoT project would essentially increase the project’s data cap, allowing the data plan to stay affordable and cost-effective.

  1. Global Scalability

Especially with M2M eSIMs, M2M SIM cards and IoT cellular connectivity are the sole methods of successfully powering an international and even a global-scale network. This allows businesses to solely think about their objectives without having to worry about the project’s feasibility.

With an M2M SIM card, we can enable devices to send and receive data from anywhere with cellular coverage (which is virtually everywhere in the world). So, with a cellular IoT network, we can scale the IoT implementation worldwide without needing to invest in network infrastructure.


As we can see, there are several key advantages of using M2M SIM cards over a traditional SIM card or other options for IoT network connections. M2M SIM cards are more durable while allowing remote SIM provisioning and multi-network access, allowing better scalability with potentially global cellular coverage and relatively low upfront investments.

If you plan to scale your IoT project, then a cellular connection is your best bet, and you might want to consider Truphone For Things for your IoT wireless connection solution.