I hear a lot these days from customers and vendors alike about having one SIM for all countries. It’s actually a really good concept - you can deploy in any of 170 countries in the world using only one SIM and one platform to manage the subscriptions.

So who does this one SIM concept really appeal to? It appeals to automotive companies who are in Europe, Asia and North America. In other words, very large multinational companies with huge infrastructures and resources to manage the relationship.

So who does this one SIM concept not appeal to? Ironically, it does not appeal to very large multinational companies with huge infrastructures and resources. Why you ask? Well, on the surface it seems like a no brainer, but if you consider for a moment the issues a customer could have, then it starts to break down.

Customers will have a problem with connectivity in the car, as an example....

They will not know if it is a hardware problem or a cellular connectivity issue. They will take it to their dealer, because our good friend “Siri” will be of no use to them if they are off line. How would the customer know which provider to call? How would the customer know that they need to call the manufacturer (because that’s in the car handbook and no one, I mean no one, reads those things)?

Now you have a simple or complex problem depending on your geography. If you are fortunate to live in a country where the deal with the carrier was struck (or in a place where the carrier has its own network), you could receive excellent service. However, if you happen to be in another country, it is entirely possible that you will not solve the problem very efficiently. What will the mechanic try to diagnose first? It would probably be connectivity or firmware, not hardware, so that means someone is going to touch the guts of the electronics in the car. How does this seem better than talking to AT&T if you are in North America or O2 if you are in Prague? I mean that’s my first call – to the carrier and have someone ping the device. Can you imagine a situation where this might not work out well – i.e. calling Vodafone from Prague or Telefonica from Wisconsin?  Service and support will be the only metrics by which customers have to judge the quality of service.  What happens if they have to deal with a carrier they don’t know?  I am fairly certain that you will see a lot of disclaimers like: "Please note that functionalities may vary somewhat depending on country and car models”. This will turn into a service and support train wreck.

There won’t be any real time or resource savings.

Another efficiency gained on this logic is that there is one form factor for GSM and CDMA with respect to cellular modules. In different terms, you could spin one board and have a Verizon and AT&T version of your product. The problem is that very few companies have the expertise to get both networks approved, let alone "designed in". This is one of the pitches that manufacturers make – it’s the same footprint. Well that’s terrific...the only problem being that the pin out is completely different, so there are no real time or resource savings to be had.

It’s like dual SIM phones as well. If you travel it’s supposed to be fantastic, but whom really has the time to bother, and how much are you saving? Roaming is going away faster than a speeding locomotive. If I have learned anything these past 20 years in the M2M business, I have learned that you should do one thing well and constantly improve it…not try to design the perfect product with all the flexibility built in from the get go . I have never seen a product that works well in every country on GSM or CDMA while also intelligently switching to the cheapest phone service depending on a person’s location. I don’t think I ever will.

My advice, stay in your swim lane and become a leader in that space versus trying to master all the lanes and drowning. And don’t get caught up in all the hype that’s good for the manufacturer, but bad for the customer.