Each active SIM card has its own SIM card number, which can be used to assign and identify cards individually. Often these numbers are printed directly on the card or are at least recorded on the card carrier or on the enclosed letter. The technical term for this number is the ICCID. This should not be confused with the IMEI number. The latter is the mobile phone’s identification number, while the ICCID is the number of the SIM card.
When communicating with a provider, the SIM card number is often important because it is the only information that refers to the actual SIM card. Especially if you use several prepaid cards as it is important to know which mobile phone card, for example, a cancellation relates to. Therefore, the ICCID is often also requested.
ICCID is required by mobile network operators to determine which network the subscriber should be connected to. It works like this:
- You have inserted a SIM card into your device.
- The device searches for available cellular networks, the device forwards the identification code to the operator.
- The SIM card uses the ICCID code to generate the identification code.
- After the mobile operator has received the identification code, they determine if the subscriber has rights to work in the network.
This works differently with algorithms used in particular countries: if the SIM card is not on a network, but the SIM card operator is in the same country, then a limited service is provided to the subscriber, for example, if your device is a mobile phone, the ability to only call emergency services. If the subscriber’s ICCID corresponds to the cellular network, the operator opens access to calls, the Internet, etc. If the operator finds out that, the subscriber is from another country and the operator concludes an agreement on the provision of services for subscribers in different countries. The device is registered in the network and roaming tariffs are made available to the subscriber.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
For example, consider the ICCID code: 8901260234814455936F
- 89 is an industry code, a product for telecommunications networks.
- 012 – This code is usually the same as the country code.
- 60 is the area code of the mobile operator in a particular country.
- 234814455936F – The SIM card number not only has a meaning but acts as an individual operator.
It is usually not a problem if your ICCID number is no longer available as you can easily query this number directly via the device. To do this, the SIM card whose number you want to query must be inserted.
Mobile Network Identifiers Besides ICCID
In addition to the ICCID, there are additional network identifiers for a mobile network. These include:
IMSI stands for “International Mobile Subscriber Identity” and is used for the unique identification of mobile subscribers. It is saved on the SIM card. The IMSI number is issued once to every SIM card inserted in a device. They can be used, for example, to create a movement profile of the participants. Mobile phone numbers and IMSI have nothing to do with each other.
The IMSI number has up to 15 digits and consists of three parts. The first three digits are the country code. This can be used to determine which country the user is registered in with this SIM card. The IMSI of European countries always starts with the number 2.
The following two or three digits stand for the network in which the user is active. For example, the numbers 02, 04, and 09 stands for Vodafone.
All subsequent numbers are specifically assigned to the user and are accordingly individual. The IMSI is awarded in Germany by the Federal Network Agency.
The International Mobile Station Equipment Identity, or IMEI for short, is one unique 15-digit serial number that can be used to uniquely identify each mobile radio terminal.
The Future of the ICCID
The future belongs to the “eSIM” cellular card. The “e” stands for “embedded” SIM, which means “permanently installed” or “embedded” in the device.
The eSIM has what it takes to revolutionize the mobile communications world. It creates completely new standards in terms of convenience and flexibility for the user. The successor to the previously known SIM card contains all the information about the customer’s tariff world. At the end of last year, the mobile communications industry association GSMA published the final eSIM standard. Now it will not be long before the first standardized eSIM devices go to the market.
Gone are the days when you tried desperately to open the SIM card slot on your smartphone or tablet with a paper clip. The eSIM is permanently integrated into the device as a tiny chip, the user loads his SIM profile onto the device, activates it and off we go. With the eSIM, the customer is much more flexible and can connect to the network with his eSIM devices at any time – regardless of device type.
Several profiles can be saved on the eSIM but only one can be actively used at a time. This means that number portability works as it does today – just more convenient and with just a few clicks. Of course, there will also be term contracts for subsidized devices in the future. Moreover, the customer can use their device with a different tariff or profile. If they want to pass their device on to someone else, they simply delete their eSIM profile and reactivate the device with a different contract.
There are many identifiers for cellular technology. Of course, these identifiers mainly do background work and do not necessarily have a direct benefit for the end-user. However, such numbers are of great importance, and understanding them is very useful.