Thursday, 30 January 2014

Multi-SIM: The Jargon

I had been having some discussions regarding Multi-SIM phones and there is a bit of misunderstanding so here is my clarification about them. Anyway, a lot of information is just an understanding so feel free to correct any mistakes you think I may have made.

This post is about multiple SIM cards, physical UICC cards rather than single UICC with multiple SIM applications. We will look at Dual IMSI later on in the post. In case you do not know about the multiple SIM applications in a UICC, see this old post here. In this post, I will refer to UICC cards as SIM cards to avoid confusion.

Back in the old days, the Dual-SIM phones allowed only one SIM on standby at any time. The other SIM was switched off. If someone would call the number that was switched off, a message saying that the number is switched off would come or it would go in the voicemail. To make this SIM in standby, you would have to select it from the Menu. The first SIM is now switched off. The way around it was to have one SIM card calls forwarded the other when switched off. This wasn't convenient and efficient, money wise. The reason people use multiple SIM phones is to have cheaper calls using different SIMs. So in this case forwarding calls from one SIM to another wont be cost effective. These type of phones were known as Dual SIM Single Standby or DSSS. These devices had a single transceiver.

So as the technology got cheaper and more power efficient, the new multi-SIM devices could incorporate two receivers but only one transmitter was used. The main reason being that using two transmitters would consume much more power. As a result, these devices can now have both the SIM's on standby at the same time. These kind of devices were known as Dual SIM Dual Standby or DSDS. Wikipedia also calls then Dual SIM Standby or DSS. This concept could be extended further to Triple SIM Triple Standby or TSTS in case of the device with three SIM cards and Quad SIM Quad Standby or QSQS in case of four SIM cards. One thing to remember is that when a call is received and a SIM becomes active, the other SIM cards become inactive for the duration of the call. A workaround for that situation is to forward the call to the other SIM card in case if its unavailable. Though this will work for DSDS, it may not be that straightforward in case of TSTS and QSQS due to more than two SIM cards being present.

Another category of devices that are now available are the Dual SIM Dual Active or DSDA. In this case there are two transceivers in the device. Both the SIM cards are active at the same time so each SIM card can handle the call independently of each other. It would even be possible to conference both these calls.

With the prices of calls falling, there is no longer a real need for multiple SIM cards. One SIM card is generally sufficient. It may be useful though to have multiple IMSI on the SIM card. The different IMSI would have different country and network code. For example, a person in in UK can have one IMSI with the home network code and one with say a US operator IMSI. This IMSI could only be programmed by the home operator. When the person is in UK he could receive calls on his UK number or on the US number which would be routed to his UK number. For a person in US calling the US number, this is a national call rather than an international one. When the person is roaming in the US, his US IMSI would behave like non-roaming case while the calls to the UK number would be forwarded to the US number.


Anonymous said...

"So if a call is received on another SIM card, the device will allow you to keep the first call on hold and then take the second call."

DSDS phone will not behave like this. If you have an active call on SIM1, you won't even be notified on incoming call on SIM2. Somebody trying to reach you on SIM2 will perceive you as unavailable.

This quote from Wikipedia page you linked is proving what I just wrote.
"When making or receiving calls, the modem locks to the active channel; the other channel would be ignored and thus unavailable during the duration of the call."

Zahid Ghadialy said...

Thanks, fixed it.