UPDATE: We can no longer guarantee operation of the device with SIM-cards purchased directly from T-Mobile or AT&T. Please use Truphone SIM cards. Read our FAQ here. Below is the old article.
I post this article for our customers, but it might be useful for the broader public who might want to know more about SIM cards in USA and Canada. As for our customers, this article is suitable for the new iSocket 3G only, not for the earlier GSM (2G) generation, that is still useful for many European countries.
If you want to skip the detail, there is a summary below.
There has been an article about GSM SIM cards for USA on our website for a long time. Because of changes on mobile networks I recently split it into 3 posts: the one you can read now, another with basic information about prepaid cards for iSocket (that I recommend you read), and the last one that tells how to activate SIM cards if you buy them directly from T-Mobile or AT&T. Read also my post about why iSocket 3G is required for USA, Australia and Canada here.
Why does iSocket 3G require a SIM card?
When you buy a phone or any other device with a cellular connection (e.g. Kindle) in the USA you often do not need to buy an additional SIM card, because connectivity is already uploaded to a SIM card installed inside the device or to a chip in the device such as for old Verizon phones. For these devices you usually pay a monthly service fee. These are sometimes called locked phones.
Since iSocket 3G works through the cellular network it needs connectivity to be able to send and accept text messages. iSocket 3G is managed by texts and some operations can be activated by a call. iSocket 3G can also operate via the mobile Internet. To provide connectivity to a device you insert a SIM card yourself. iSocket is an unlocked 3G cellular device. We do not charge customers for service and do not charge a monthly fee for connectivity. Our customers are free to choose their favorite operator and change whenever they wish to. That is why the device has a slot for a micro SIM card. Each SIM card has a phone number. You can text or call to this number in the same way that you call or text to another mobile phone.
When you send a text to the iSocket 3G it is considered as an incoming text for the device. When iSocket 3G sends a text to you, this is considered an outgoing text. You will pay for incoming and outgoing texts according to the charges of your SIM card provider. iSocket 3G also has a unique feature to carry out some operations by a call (e.g. reboot and switching) free of charge. You do not need a data plan until you decide to use Open API features and remote firmware update on iSocket 3G.
What type of SIM card is required for iSocket 3G?
You need to insert a 3G specification SIM card into the unit, not LTE. Note, some SIM cards are called 4G or LTE, in most cases it is just marketing speak, but these cards will support 3G too. Some SIM cards are still called GSM SIM and they all usually support 3G nowadays too, especially in USA, where the GSM (2G) network will be shutting down soon. iSocket 3G will accept a micro SIM card. Most providers now offer combiSIM and you usually do not need to consider which SIM card to choose when buying.
I’m Verizon’s customer, how do I work with the device?
Note, you can’t connect the iSocket 3G to the Verizon network in USA, because they are a network of another standard. But you can manage the iSocket 3G from your Verizon phone. These are two different things. Your Verizon phone is one device and iSocket 3G is another device. They are independent. Both need connectivity. Your Verizon phone already has connectivity, but for iSocket 3G you need to buy a SIM card, which supports 3G. See the note for Verizon customers in this post.
Where to buy such SIM cards?
You can buy these directly from T-Mobile or AT&T, because iSocket 3G operates on their network in USA. You can buy from Rogers or Fido, if you are in Canada. More info about SIM cards sourced directly from carriers is given in this post. However I usually recommend that my customers buy SIM cards from alternate providers, who provide better tariffs and support online activation. See examples below. Let’s first talk about USA, and then about Canada.
Truphone SIM – THE BEST SOLUTION FOR USA, so far
There are resellers of mobile operators on the market who sell SIM cards which work on 3G mobile networks of different operators. Sometimes these cards are called roaming SIM cards. In fact, these providers sell airtime that they have purchased in bulk from uplink operators.
I recently found a good solution for my USA customers - Truphone SIM. They offer online activation – no need to have a phone to activate the SIM card. They sell the SIM card for $30, $15 of which is airtime that does not expire!
I’ve contacted Truphone several times to request discount for my customers, but so far they are not cooperative. I will update my post if I find a better solution with another SIM card supplier or agreement with Truphone. Until then, the upfront cost that you pay for their SIMs is $15 (payment for plastic) and anything else you put on that card is your airtime, including the $15 you pay when you buy this card.
Incoming texts for their cards are free, so when you text to iSocket from your phone, your credit with the Truphone SIM installed in iSocket will be unaffected. Outgoing texts are only $0.09 for USA – these are messages that iSocket will send to you, for example the power failure alert message. Another benefit is that these cards work both through AT&T and T-Mobile network, which means that you have double coverage. In fact, you can use this card for a very long time if you don’t activate the mobile Internet features of iSocket 3G.
I asked John Bergerson – my customer from USA - to share his opinion about Truphone SIM:
"The Truphone SIM is a great solution for the iSocket. I was able to easily activate it on their website, plug it into the iSocket and be up and running within minutes. The Truphone SIM is the perfect match for your iSocket as a GSM SIM because it is inexpensive and easily activated in the United States. Very happy with both my iSocket and Truphone SIM."
Note, this was about GSM (2G), but in fact their cards support 3G too. Disable any voicemail or call- forwarding services on SIM card that you insert to iSocket. Read this post for basic information.
I came across AlarmSIM a few weeks ago because of a problem with one of my customers who has a Verizon phone – see post here. AlarmSIM also cost $30, but that payment is just for the plastic. You have to buy airtime separately. Their airtime does not expire either (at least that’s what they claim). The cost per message is $0.11, which is not bad, but higher than Truphone. Finally, you can choose which network your iSocket will work on – either T-Mobile or AT&T.
I asked Sean Hinkle –another USA customer - to test this SIM for me and here is his feedback:
"I recently purchased the iSocket HomeGuard. I was having a problem with my SIM card, which was due to an issue with the carrier's network in the USA, and the iSocket customer support team went above and beyond to help me find a working SIM. I have my HomeGuard up and running with no issues and absolutely love the product."
You may try to find similar roaming cards from other providers, possibly with even better tariffs. Try googling “sim cards for alarm usa”, “3g prepaid sim cards usa”, “roaming sim cards usa” or similar. But there are definitely suitable solutions - without having to pay monthly fees - available in USA. I will find more for you. I would appreciate if you share your discoveries too.
If you want to source SIM cards directly from AT&T or Mobile – read this post.
CANADA – what SIM cards are suitable there?
Three years ago we recommended SIM cards from Fido, who was a reseller of Rogers – the only GSM operator in Canada who cover 97% of population. But a few months ago one enthusiastic customer in Canada – Jim Walton - tested several SIM cards for us. Thanks, Jim!
NOTE! Rogers have NOT announced the shutting down of the GSM network (as of the writing of this post) and I doubt they will do so soon, because there are a lot of M2M GSM devices on the market - read this post.
Therefore, our iSockets of the previous generation (iSocket PowerWatch) will work well for you in Canada on Rogers network. However, there is one exception. Your area must be covered by Rogers network and not their roaming partners. One of my customers from Saskatchewan wanted to use an iSocket from the previous generation (2G) on their farm. She was unable to run it, because Rogers do not have GSM coverage in Saskatchewan, but roaming from another operator. For iSocket 3G the situation will be different.
At the moment I would recommend you consider the Rogers network until we have tested it on Telus or Bell 3G (HSPA+) networks. Updates will follow.
If you want to buy a SIM card from Fido, you will find their stores using this Store Locator link on their website (if location of the page has changed and the link does not work when you read this post, please contact me for an update).
To activate your Fido SIM Card you will need an IMEI number. You will find this number on the label at the back of the iSocket unit. You have to go to this link and activate your card there (if the location of the page has changed and the link is not working when you read this article, please contact me for an update). You can also ask advice from the store where you buy the SIM card.
SUMMARIZING THE ABOVE:
If you are in USA, buy either Truphone SIM or AlarmSIM. So far they are the two best options for USA, because airtime does not expire, the message cost is low and their cards can be activated online. If you have special business tariffs with AT&T or T-Mobile and they can help you with SIM card activation – buy from them.
If you are in Canada and covered by Rogers’ network – buy 711 SIM card or Petro-Canada cards. 711 is better because of the longer expiration time. If you have a contract with Rogers, you can probably buy SIM cards from them. And you do not actually need iSocket 3G - the previous generation of iSocket, available for sale right now, would be fine for you.
You need a micro SIM for iSocket 3G.
Disable any voicemail or call- forwarding services on the SIM card that you insert into iSocket. Read this post for basic information.