Just like the validity of a credit card or debit card, your SIM card also has a validity or expiry date. Sadly, you cannot use it forever, especially if you are not recharging it often. Even though you can retain the phone number even if you change the SIM card, you might require to replace it with a new physical SIM card. Why does your local SIM card expire? Why can’t they have lifetime validity? For how long can a SIM card remain valid? Before answering the above questions, it is important to distinguish between the three types of validity.
- The validity of the physical SIM card.
- The validity of the mobile phone number.
- The validity of the prepaid calling credit and data credit.
The Validity of the Physical SIM Card
Your mobile phone or tablet needs a local SIM card to connect you to the mobile network. A local SIM card is a microchip on a piece of plastic that stores your authentication information. This information allows you to open access to mobile networks.
A local SIM card has validity information on its packaging or the card itself. It is up to the service provider to decide the validity of the SIM card. They put validity on the SIM card to avoid keeping very old series of SIMs available in their systems. The cost of keeping this database is equal to millions of entries. This is possibly the major reason for putting expiration dates on SIM cards.
One more reason to write an expiry date on a SIM card is that telecom companies don’t want their SIM cards to remain in circulation forever. Many small and slow developments take place through which local SIM cards go like storage space, security form, and branding, which are ultimately useful from a long-run perspective. In such cases, only the newest version of SIM cards will be used, and the rest will vanish slowly. For example, the transition from SIM to USIM, which was resulted due to the introduction of 4G networks. That’s why old local SIM cards had to be exchanged for newer ones.
The Validity of a Mobile Phone Number
To start using a SIM card, you need to activate it first of all. The SIM cards sold in stores are almost blank. As soon as you activate a SIM card, it is registered in all the systems of the telecom service provider. It also connected with the information you provided while purchasing the SIM card from the retailer.
An activated SIM card is connected to an account featuring calling credit and data credit details. In most cases, active local SIM cards are linked to you as a person. This is made compulsory by governments for national security. If a local SIM card isn’t used for a prolonged period of time, it is suspended or blocked.
The two primary reasons why service providers do this are:
- Limited amount of available phone numbers: Service providers take telephone numbers from the local government on rent, and then they issue them to their customers. It costs a lot of money, and it would be too expensive to keep phone numbers connected to local SIM cards forever. That’s why most of the service providers suspend local SIM cards after 3 months to 12 months of inactivity so that they can make the phone number available to use again by a new subscriber. Service providers use a cooling-off period of a few months to one year before assigning that phone number to a new customer. They do this so that a new customer doesn’t receive messages or calls from the previous “owner” of the phone number.
- The limited capacity of a service provider’s database: An active SIM is registered in different systems, and it keeps track of things like consumption balance history, data and calling credit, the validity of the SIM card, the antenna to which the SIM card was last connected, etc. If we take into account only a single SIM card, the numbers are not very big. But with millions of active SIMs, it makes a lot of difference whether you leave SIMs active forever or suspend them after a certain period of inactivity. That’s how telecom companies use less capacity and save costs.
The Validity of Prepaid Credit
This is the most difficult to understand of all three forms of validity. The validity of the prepaid credit is purely a commercial decision of the service provider.
Calling credit validity is a very luring topic for service providers. Many of them offer prepaid credit that can be kept for as long as the SIM remains active.
Call credit is especially useful for phone calls and text messages. But it is very disadvantageous to use data directly from your call credit since it costs you a lot.
There are basically two solutions to this. One is to choose Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) plans. These plans allow you to pay per every MB you use. The second option is to buy either a data bundle separately or buy a combo of data bundle and calling credit.
In short, there are 3 types of validity.
- The validity of a physical local SIM card allows telecom companies to maintain a clean database. That’s why they circulate a limited number of local SIM cards with expiry date in the market.
- The validity of phone numbers allows the service providers to assign phone numbers to only active users, as there are a limited number of phone numbers available.
- The validity of prepaid call or data credit is valid for a limited number of days. This allows the service providers to sell prepaid data bundles at an affordable price. If the user needs to consume fewer data, then he can opt for PAYG data plans.
The reason there are no exact rules to affix validity to SIM cards is simple: They depend a lot on your individual recharge/reload activity. It can be very complicated even within the same operator but having different tariff plans. They vary widely between several countries of the world.