SIM cards are one of the many examples of hidden technology that enable our daily lives in the modern world. The majority of people need to only think about and see their SIM card for a few minutes each time they upgrade their phone. Here at SIM Local, we think about and see SIM cards more often than the average person! While we appreciate that not everyone shares our obsession, we’ve picked out some of the more interesting facts to share with you today.
Starting on an unexpected note, did you know that the Zimbabwean government abandoned its currency in 2009 due to hyperinflation? At its most extreme, prices were doubling almost daily, with the quickest doubling on record being 24.7 hours. In November 2008, the rate of inflation was calculated at a staggering 79,600,000,000% per month. So what has that got to do with the phone in your pocket? The German company Giesecke & Devrient, who printed these bank notes for Zimbabwe, are the same company who made the first SIM cards. They sold the first batch in 1991, a very modest order of 300 SIM cards in comparison to the billions which exist globally today.
So who bought these SIM cards? It won’t come as a big surprise to find that it was the technologically advanced Scandinavians. Radiolinja, a company in Finland, achieved a number of additional firsts in the mobile space during the nineties:
Another thing that has changed in the world of SIM cards is their size. Following most technology trends, over the years they have become simultaneously smaller and more powerful. The original SIM cards were the same size as a credit card. If you think back to the last time you bought a new SIM card, you might recall that it came embedded in a credit card sized piece of plastic. This is because new SIM cards are required to be compatible with older models of phones. While one of the original phones would be hard to track down today, theoretically you could install your entire credit card packaging with your modern SIM card still attached, and the phone would work. There’s something to remember if you ever find yourself in a Back to the Future scenario!
Typically when we think about roaming charges, what comes to mind is the unavoidable 10 minute call to your bank at home, or weighing up the decision to turn on roaming data to use Google Maps vs. wandering around lost for another hour. Roaming charges are expensive and unpleasant, there’s no doubt about that. However at least they’re made more palatable by the fact that you’re enjoying a nice holiday somewhere.
Not everybody has that luxury. For some people living close to their country’s border, roaming charges are an ongoing and daily nuisance.
One Canadian woman recently interviewed explained that she frequently receives messages from her telecom company warning that she has surpassed her $100 data roaming limit, without ever leaving her home town. According to TheTelecomBlog.com, despite having a Canadian SIM card and living in Canada, her phone thinks that it is roaming in the United States.
Similar problems occur for owners of UK SIM cards in Northern Ireland. Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, estimates that in some parts of Northern Ireland, 30% of the population experience inadvertent roaming on a daily basis.
In these examples, the messaging from the network companies is fairly similar: while they empathise with the problem, the way our modern technology works can make the solution difficult. The radius of cellular towers doesn’t neatly follow borders, and two neighbouring towers from different countries can cause interference with one another. However as more regions, including European and African countries, are talking about eliminating or restricting international roaming charges, this problem may fade away over time.
So if you’re living or staying in a border region, is there anything that you can do to avoid expensive roaming charges? Luckily there are some solutions at hand.
Firstly you can disable your phone’s ability to select a local wireless carrier, and manually lock it to your own contracted company.
Secondly, you could consider buying an additional SIM card for your neighbouring country. Living close to a border opens up opportunities to very easily work, shop and socialise “abroad” so it’s possible that there’s a need to be in touch with both communities frequently. For example, people living near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could buy both an Irish sim card and a UK sim card. You could buy either a second phone, such as a cheap unlocked mobile phone, and have two numbers on the go. Alternatively you could buy a dual SIM card phone which allows you to use two SIM cards simultaneously.
Finally keep complaining! Just because you understand why the technology switches you between countries doesn’t mean that your problem is solved. Local networks still have a responsibility to avoid passing on these roaming charges to their customers. The more noise you make, the more seriously the problem will be taken.
This week we’ve launched our new website. We’ve been online for a couple of years, but it’s amazing how quickly things need to be refreshed and updated online. We decided to do a spring-clean of the appearance of the site, and also the cogs and wheels behind the scenes. With this in mind it seemed like perfect timing to launch our first blog.
So what is SIM Local? To put it very simply, we’re a company who sells local SIM cards. We offer an alternative to expensive roaming charges, which gives our customers more money to spend on the fun stuff like sightseeing, shopping, shows, sporting events and supper.
The SIM Local team is based in two countries. We have a large team running our 3 stores in Heathrow airport, and the rest of us are split between our Dublin airport store and our head office just outside of Dublin city. We have some things in common with our typical customers. We love to travel, and are glued to our phones. We’ll be writing about interesting travel or mobile stories that we come across, or our favourite bugbear, roaming charges. The blog will also be a source of news for any new products, partnerships or store openings that we’re planning.
We’re also active on Twitter and Facebook, so don’t be shy about getting in touch. We also welcome emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have a few things up our sleeves in the coming months so come back to catch up with us!