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What’s the difference between steered and non-steered multi-network roaming SIM cards?

Multi-network roaming SIM cards are one of the most widely used M2M connectivity solutions. They offer businesses many advantages when it comes to mobile (or remote) IoT (internet of things) applications. Many industries benefit from using SIM cards that can change from one network to another; however, you need to be careful when choosing your roaming solution.

Plenty of M2M providers sell multi-network roaming SIM cards, but not all of them provide the same solution. When choosing your M2M provider you need to ensure that their solution is the best one for your business. To help you find the best solution we’ve outlined the biggest misunderstanding when it comes to roaming SIMs; steered or non-steered.


What is a steered multi-network roaming SIM card?

That’s right, just to confuse things there are actually two different types of roaming SIM. Steered SIM cards are the least preferred option. These roaming SIMs have the functionality to connect to multiple networks, but there’s a catch. Steered SIM cards prioritise one primary network over all other available networks.

At first thought this doesn’t seem so bad. We probably won’t mind if the SIM card prefers one network, after all, if that network drops it’ll change to a different one. As long as the SIM card doesn’t lose connectivity entirely we’re happy. This can cause problems for certain M2M applications.

SIM cards that prioritise networks force your device to stay connected to the primary one even if the signal is poor. A steered multi-network roaming SIM card doesn’t prioritise the strongest connection available.

Although some applications of IoT can operate over poor networks, most will struggle. A good example of where an unstable connection causes issues is in GPS trackers. GPS trackers require connectivity 24/7 to constantly monitor the location of the device. If the signal keeps dipping in and out, the tracker won’t be able to consistently record its location. This defeats the object of a GPS tracker.

What is a non-steered multi-network roaming SIM card?

The other option is a non-steered multi-network roaming SIM. This solution is preferred within the IoT and M2M industry as it’s much more flexible and effective.

non-steered SIM card doesn’t have a primary network. No individual network is prioritised; they’re all on a level playing field. For this reason, your device is able to change between them seamlessly.

A steered M2M SIM card can only change network when the signal drops below a certain threshold; non-steered SIMs don’t follow the same ruling. Instead of prioritising specific networks they prioritise connectivity. This means that the roaming SIM will always connect to the strongest signal available, no matter what network it is.

Having a SIM card that can switch between networks enables businesses to get more out of their application of M2M. They can rest knowing that their devices are less likely to stop working due to poor signal. This is extremely beneficial in businesses implementing applications such as fleet management.