SIM card in other devices, is that allowed or not?

Providers often do not allow the use of a SIM card in an internet dongle or mobile router. They refer to the conditions and the authorities. They say that 06 numbers may not be used for this. European rules do not allow providers to prohibit the use of a smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot alone. Can you now use a SIM card in other devices, or not?

A burning question from a reader: his provider Tele2 threatens to cut him off from the mobile network. He has used the SIM card in a router in a given month. That is in violation of the laws and regulations, according to the provider. The reader has fourteen days to use the SIM card as intended: in combination with a 4G telephone. If he doesn't comply, he will be shut down.

Of course, a few questions arise. Which laws and regulations is the provider talking about exactly? And are you not free to use a SIM card and the internet bundle of the subscription as it suits you?

Conditions Tele2

Tele2 has been owned by T-Mobile for about a year. Not much has changed for customers. That also applies to the conditions. The provider has had a policy of proper use of mobile services for years, a so-called fair use policy.

In the past, the provider was very explicit and the so-called tethering was even banned in the conditions. The smartphone provides the internet connection of other devices. A typical example is switching on the Wi-Fi hotspot on the smartphone. This ban had to remove the provider from the conditions, because it violated European rules on net neutrality.

The provider still tackles 'unreasonable use', especially that of large consumers. In practice, the Unlimited subscription of Tele2 turns out not to be as unlimited as it makes out.

Unlimited subscription really unlimited?

Tele2 is best known for its Unlimited subscription. There are no hard limits for calling, texting and surfing the internet. In fact, the provider even encourages 'to empty the internet completely'. They are nice sales pitches, but the reality is different. For starters, there's the additional condition that if you've used more than 5 GB in a day, you'll have to send a text message for free extra data. But don't worry: you can do that 'as often as you want'.

Yet people are called to account if they use a lot of data. This already happens, judging by the reactions of users, when more than 10 GB is used for a few days. Or more than 120 GB in a month. That seems like a lot, but it can go fast with services such as Netflix and YouTube, especially with high video quality. And it is only a minuscule piece of internet that you have 'emptied' with it.

Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets

What Tele2 has become more strict with in recent years, as the reader question also makes clear, is the use of a SIM card in other devices. For example in a router, dongle, laptop or mi-fi. The latter is a device that, after you have inserted the SIM card, connects independently to the internet and offers a WiFi connection. Here Tele2 reverts to the law, to be precise regulations of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM).

This regulator states that devices that are used for purposes other than mobile telephony may not have a 06 number. They may only be given a 097 number. This is happening because of the impending shortage of 06 numbers. There is a legal numbering plan that tries to prevent this. For the time being, however, this shortage is not an issue. Recently, the regulator withdrew millions of unused numbers from providers. But ACM does monitor the use more closely, although the responsibility lies with the provider.

The applications for which a 06 number may not be used all fall under the heading of M2M communication, machine-to-machine. These are mainly automated applications where devices talk to each other without human intervention. Consider, for example, a navigation system that retrieves traffic information, an alarm system that calls the security company or a car that calls the emergency number after a collision. Remarkably enough, ACM also refers to the use of a dongle for mobile internet as M2M communication.

Mobile internet and M2M

For real M2M applications it will be clear that a 097 number is sufficient. It goes a long way, however, to ban and punish internet use via a dongle or Mifi with a SIM card. That cannot be the intent of the law. Technically, using a mi-fi is the same as turning on the Wi-Fi hotspot on a smartphone. At most, with the difference that you could also make calls with your smartphone and that you are thus protected by the rules for net neutrality.

A recent lawsuit against Tele2 does not provide a complete answer about your rights. Tele2 lost a case against a subscriber who used a SIM card in a mobile hotspot to connect multiple devices to the 4G network. Tele2 argued in court that the SIM card may only be used in a telephone.

The court ruled that the SIM-only subscription, without a delivered phone, may also be used with other devices that support Tele2's 4G network. Tele2's terms and conditions did not specifically state that it had to be a smartphone. Nowadays, the conditions of Tele2 state that you must comply with the laws and regulations. Your 06 number is only intended for devices that make calls. And that does not include a mifi or router.

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