Internet Connectivity on the Field: The Case for SIM-Only Plans

Technology has completely revolutionised the field of mapping and surveying. There are software and hardware solutions that can handle virtually all aspects of mapping and surveying.



While on the field, internet connectivity is important to enable these technological tools to function, and to facilitate communication between field and office personnel. SIM only mobile plans offer, arguably, the most suitable internet solution for field teams.

What are SIM-only plans?
They are a form of mobile plan that does not include the purchasing of a device, just the SIM card. The user is expected to provide their own device to function with the provided SIM card, often referred to as a bring-your-own-device scenario. The plans are flexible, and can often be customized to the user’s needs. Elements included in the plans include call minutes, text messages, and data bundles for internet access.

Why are they suitable for field surveyors/mappers?
Fieldwork in the surveying and mapping sector involves a lot of travelling, usually beyond regional and national borders. It would not be financially viable for new devices to be purchased when a team is working in areas not covered by their ‘primary’ mobile carrier. Moreover, some of the devices used, such as sensors, require some form of internet connectivity to function. With the right devices, SIM only plans guarantee an affordable and reliable internet connection regardless of the location a project is based in.

Factors to consider when getting a SIM-only plan

Some of the important factors that have to be considered include:

Device unlocking
SIM-only plans only work on unlocked devices. These are devices whose functionality is not limited to a single carrier. Thankfully, in most jurisdictions network restricted devices can be legally unlocked by the carrier or manufacturer. This applies for smartphones, tablets and modems/routers. Unlocking the device through ‘official’ channels ensures that the warranty is not voided.

Device-network compatibility
Carriers vary in terms of the technologies they support, and this should be considered when choosing a SIM-only plan. There is no point in getting a 4G SIM card on a device that only supports 3G connectivity. Similarly, a plan that includes voice minutes would be unsuitable for use in a 4G router/modem. It is also important to determine whether the carrier utilizes a GSM or CDMA mobile infrastructure as this determines the devices that the network is compatible with.

Pre-paid or post-paid plan
Each option has benefits and drawbacks depending on the user’s specific needs. When working with a tighter budget, it is generally advisable to use pre-paid plans to regulate communications costs. However, post-paid plans are usually more cost-effective for heavy users.

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