Technological innovations take place every day. A SIM card is also a piece of technology that is hard to understand for many people despite its small size and narrow functionality. Unless you are an expert on SIM cards, you can’t understand every minute detail about them. One bit of information involves the answer to the question, “are SIM cards network-specific or not?”
When you read about SIM cards on the internet you find there is a plethora of content, and it’s hard to find precise explanations sometimes. The more you read, the more you may get perplexed. In this article, you will learn if a SIM card is network-specific and whether you have to replace them when switching carriers. Let’s begin.
What is a SIM network?
You may have already read our guide on what SIM cards are, so we won’t go deep into it. SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module and its major function is to connect your device to the carrier’s network. It gives you a unique identity among all the subscribers of your carrier. A SIM network, on the other hand, is your service provider.
These service providers provide mobile connectivity to a large area like a town, city, state, or country. They use their network to share a large amount of bandwidth covering long distances and even international borders. Every country has SIM network providers like India has Airtel, Vi, Jio, and BSNL. They can be state-owned, privately owned, or joint ventures between governments and private citizens.
Are all SIM cards tied to a specific carrier?
In most cases, yes, SIM cards are network-specific. SIM cards are manufactured by companies that specialize in their bulk production. These SIM card manufacturing companies are different from the mobile operators/wireless carriers. Mobile operators purchase SIM cards en masse from these firms at a cheap rate, and then they program them for their network.
Hence, when the SIM cards are created they aren’t tied to any network by default but are blank. Thus, the answer is precise and simple, not all SIM cards are tied to a specific network. However, you can’t find such blank SIM cards in the market individually. They are commercial in nature and mainly sold to large companies. A blank SIM card can be bought either online or at some specific reseller stores, but you’d still need carrier data to program them.
Can you change the carrier of your SIM card?
The answer to this question is technically, yes. That is called number portability through which you can change the carrier. Though it’s possible to reprogram them, carriers will oftentimes send you a new SIM with the same phone number for practicality and convenience. You can read our SIM porting guide to understand this system more deeply. It is important to note that only GSM SIM connections can be ported, not the CDMA SIM connections. CDMA phones are already tied to a carrier for the lifetime except in some cases, and that too with strict conditions.
From the above article, it is clear that most of the SIM cards available in the market are all tied to one network or another. Only a handful of stores and websites sell blank SIM cards independent of any network. Such blank SIM cards can be programmed by the users as per their needs. However, that requires a lot of technical skills. Most blank SIM cards are used for cloning purposes which is not a recommended practice, although cloning SIM cards is a legal process in most countries when used appropriately. Technicians use blank SIMs mostly for education, training, and testing purposes.