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ARM processors to have built-in SIM cards
March 4, 2018, 2:24 pm

Every millimeter of space matters when you are trying to build increasingly complex electronics into increasingly tiny packages, and the relatively spacious SIM card has long been an area of frustration for hardware manufacturers. Now, the chip design company ARM may have an answer: an integrated component called an iSIM that is built into the same chip as the processor.

ARM says the iSIM will take up a “fraction of a millimeter squared,” whereas the current SIM standard — Nano SIMs — are about 12.3 x 8.8mm in size, not including the hardware usually needed to house them. Not only will that save space, but ARM says it will more importantly save on costs, too: instead of paying ‘tens of cents’ per card, manufacturers will be paying single-digit cents.

But do not think that your mobile SIM is about to disappear. This technology is being developed first for small Internet of Things devices, like wireless sensors that need cellular service to report their findings. ARM’s goal is to bring down the cost of these products as much as possible and helping its chip designs become ubiquitous as the IoT market ramps up in the coming years.

There remains one real outstanding question here: whether phone carriers will approve of this new technology. Phone makers already have a Nano SIM alternative — a small chip, measuring 6 x 5mm, known as an eSIM — that has been slow to gain support in the industry. eSIMs have increasingly been showing up in tablets and wearables though, and recently Google’s latest Pixel smartphone, so it may just be a matter of time before it takes off more widely.

ARM suspects that iSIMs will end up being welcomed by carriers. They meet the necessary standards, and ultimately, it is in cell carriers’ interests to see more IoT gadgets connecting to their networks, since it means more customers for them. ARM, which does not make chips directly, says it is already sent iSIM designs to its partners and expects to see chips with them become available by the end of the year.


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