December 14, 2020

SIM Management: Rate Plans vs Communication Plans

How to get your SIM Management right

I’m the connectivity management guy at Tele2 IoT, the one who knows a lot about Cisco IoT Control Center and how it helps you manage your connectivity, so I sit in on a lot of meetings with customers. And at those meetings I get a lot of questions.  The most common question I get?  “What is the difference between a rate plan and a communication plan?”

The baseline answer is that the communication plan tells you what a SIM card can do from a technical perspective, such as if your SIMs have access to data, SMS service, and also where they have access to which roaming networks. The rate plan, on the other hand, only tells you what the price is.

In the most basic terms, it’s functionality vs price. The communication plan will tell you that you can stream data with operator X in Germany, and the rate plan will tell you how much it will cost you for each megabyte or SMS.

Of course, things can get more complicated and these two plans do interact. For example, you might have a rate plan with a good price in Price Zone A but it’s more expensive in the other zones. But you are using a communication plan that allows traffic in the whole world – in this situation you could end up with bill shock if your device leaves price Zone A. Why? Because the communication plan says you can do traffic anywhere in the world, while the rate plan won’t tell you whether you can do it or not, it will only tell you what it’s going to cost you.

How can you best optimize the use of rate plans and communication plans?

You should always have a communication plan that allows you to do some kind of cost control. Let’s look at geo-zone A, which will give you a few selected networks in each EU country with a good value for price. Other networks are available, but they are more expensive. These good value networks suit a lot of solutions that aren’t mission critical – you just need to make sure your devices can connect to the network when they cross borders or otherwise move around. Now, it’s not always easy to make sure you select the correct network to use, which is why you have the communication plan. The communication plan allows you to restrict access to only Prize Zone A, which will give you coverage in the EU, but you will only have the less expensive networks available.

On the other hand, if you have a communication plan that is open to all networks, your device doesn’t say ‘only use the less expensive network’ – instead it just picks one with a good enough signal strength, which means you could end up on a premium network in Price Zone B or even C, which can lead to some serious bill shock.

To put it in real terms, just say you have a truck that travels around Europe and just takes a network as it drives along. If you have an open communication plan it might include Zone A but then you drive through Serbia and boom! You will have a a high cost, because that’s Zone C and your SIMs grabbed a network due to your open communication plan. The bottom line is your communication plan should reflect your rate plan and vice versa – that’s how you maintain cost control in an efficient way.

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Of course, different customers have different needs. You should ask yourself if you’re looking for the best price or the best service? Or some combination of both?

If I’m looking for cost control, I should place limits, which means I might sometimes lose service on a moving device. If you don’t need continuous service this probably won’t matter. Most customers don’t have devices that support live streaming a road trip through Europe – your truck pinging every few hours will probably be enough, because even if you lose coverage for a period of time, the data will be cached and then sent when coverage resumes. It’s good to note, though, that if you’re in regions with few networks in the less expensive zones you may want to open up your communication plan a bit – it all comes down to your needs and matching them effectively and in the best, most cost-effective way possible

If I’m looking for the best possible service, such as for a mission critical solution, which could be in just say healthcare or security or public safety, then I will probably want to pay a more premium price for service. This is a needs-based decision.

If you’re unsure of how to work with your rate and communication plans, please get in touch. We are always ready to help our customers get the most from Cisco IoT Control Center.

Marcus Gidén
Product Manager
Tele2 IoT

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