ICCID Numbers and How To Find Them

What is an ICCID number?

ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identification) numbers are the unique identifying numbers for circuit cards, such as:

  • SIM cards
  • eSIM cards
  • M2M (Machine-to-Machine) cards
  • Credit cards
  • National identification cards

Typically, the ICCID is found physically printed on the SIM card and is also embedded within the SIMs memory. These numbers are key for uniquely identifying devices connecting to networks. With IoT solutions, ICCID numbers allow devices to identify themselves when connecting to networks and in the process of retrieving and updating data on SIMs over the air.

Essentially, adding a unique ID number to every modem in every cellular device could be sufficient for networks to recognise the device and connect it to the internet. Although, solely relying on hardware IDs can cause problems, as this links the connectivity to the specific device, rather than the user. 

That’s where Subscriber Identification Modules, known as SIMs, are useful. SIM cards separate the subscriber’s ID from the hardware’s ID. Identifying SIMs, which can be transferred between devices, allows users greater flexibility within their connectivity needs.

In this article, we’ll look at the uses of ICCID numbers in telecommunications, how to find a SIMs ICCID number, the structure of an ICCID number, and what is the difference between ICCID, IMSI, and IMEI.

Key Takeaway: ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identification) numbers are the unique identifying numbers for circuit cards. These numbers are key for uniquely identifying devices connecting to networks. ICCID numbers are crucial for managing SIM cards and ensuring seamless IoT connectivity.

Uses of ICCID Numbers in Telecommunications

There are a range of uses for ICCID numbers in telecommunications, we’ve outlined a few of these below:

  • SIM Card Identification: Each SIM card has a unique ICCID, which helps to identify and authenticate the device within the mobile network.
  • Mobile Network Identification: ICCID numbers are used by mobile network operators (MNOs) to manage and track SIM cards within the mobile network.
  • Over-the-Air (OTA) Updates: Over-the-Air updates use ICCIDs to retrieve and update information on SIM cards remotely.
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The Structure of an ICCID Number

An ICCID number is split into several distinct parts, each part provides specific ICCID details.

The graphic below created by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) illustrates the structure of the ICCID:

Graphic showing ITU ICCID Structure
ICCID structure according to the ITU. Image credit: International Telecommunication Union

We’ll now take this universal ICCID structure and provide an example ICCID number from a Soracom SIM:

  • ICCID = 89 + 12 + 34 + 56789 + 0

The number outlined above is a randomly generated combination of the following identifiers:

  • ICCID = MII + CC + IIN + IAIN + C

Here’s a breakdown and explanation for each ICCID identifier on a Soracom SIM card:

Graphic showing SIM ICCID first two digits

MII (Major Industry Identifier) + CC + IIN + IAIN + C

  • The industry application is identified by the first two digits on the circuit card. This number is always ’89’ on SIM cards, which indicates its intended purpose is telecommunication.
Graphic showing SIM ICCID Country Code

MII + CC (Country Code) + IIN + IAIN + C

  • The next one to three digits are the country code, identifying the country of issuance. The example above shows the number 42, which relates to Czechoslovakia, but if it were a US-located MNO or MVNO, the number would be 1. For the UK, the number would be 44.
Graphic showing SIM ICCID Issuer ID

MII + CC + IIN (Issuer Identifier Number) + IAIN + C

  • Following on from the country code, the Issuer Identifier Number indicates the specific entity that issued the SIM card. This number can sometimes be longer than two digits and is also known as the Mobile Network Code (MNC). The previous three parts of the ICCID can be up to 7 digits long and are collectively known as the Issuer Identifier Number or IIN.
Graphic showing SIM ICCID Unique Identifier

MII + CC + IIN + IAIN (Individual Account Identification Number) + C

  • This last but one segment of numbers uniquely identifies the individual SIM card within the issuing organisation. These digits, or the IAIN, differentiate the SIM card from all others, allowing your SIM to be found and activated by your connectivity service provider.
Graphic showing SIM ICCID Checksum

MII + CC + IIN + IAIN + C (Checksum)

  • The final digit in the sequence is used to validate the integrity of the ICCID number after transmission. The Luhn algorithm generates the final digit (a checksum formula typically used to validate ID numbers) as a combination of the other digits.

How to find a SIM’s ICCID number

The ICCID number is printed on the SIM card or SIM card packaging, although, these locations won’t be accessible if using a device remotely.

Here’s how you can find an ICCID using other methods:

Via AT Commands

Firstly, you can access information about devices using AT Commands (ATtention commands). These are used to control a modem and AT is the abbreviation of ATtention.

There are some universal commands which should work across all modem types. Universal commands that should work across all modem types can be found via the ETSI Technical Specification: AT command set for User Equipment (UE).

However, for ICCID there isn’t a universal AT command, it is a proprietary implementation, so it varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Here are some specific AT Command examples for fetching ICCID from manufacturers:

  • U-blox = AT+CCID

Source: U-blox AT Command manual.

  • SIMCom = AT+CCID

Source: SIM800 Series_AT Command Manual_V1.09.

  • Nordic Semiconductor = AT%XICCID

Source: nRF91 AT Commands.

  • Telit = AT#CCID

Source: Telit AT Commands Reference Guide.

  • Quectel = AT+QCCID

Source: Quectel EC25 Command Manual.

  • Cinterion = AT+CCID

Source: Cinterion ELS61-E2 AT Command Set.

Please note these AT Commands may change from series to series, so check the user manual to be sure.

Via the Soracom Platform and API

When using the Soracom platform, you’ll see the ICCID in the main SIM management dashboard when logged into your User Console account.

What’s the Difference Between ICCID, IMSI, and IMEI?

Understanding the differences between ICCID, IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is important as it’s easy to misunderstand important information detailed on each.

Each identifier serves a unique purpose in the telecommunications ecosystem, from identifying SIM cards and subscribers to tracking mobile devices.

Here’s a brief overview of each term, and how they differ:

  • ICCID is the SIM card identifier, we recommend this for SIM identification as it is more static
  • IMEI is the device identifier
  • IMSI identifies the SIM card user

IMSI

The IMSI (Multiple International Mobile Subscriber Identity) is a unique code, used by MNOs and MVNOs, to identify and authenticate subscribers when they attempt to connect to the network.

The IMSI is a 15-digit identifying code that provides the required credentials, username, and password, granting devices access to cellular networks.

IMSI are usually closely related to a user’s data plan too, so it’s an essential element of the billing process. There are even multi-IMSI SIMs that can access multiple networks. Even though the IMSI sounds similar to the ICCID, the key difference is that IMSI is used to access a device’s cellular networks, in comparison, the ICCID identifies the SIM hardware itself. 

An IMSI has the following structure:

IMSI Numbers Graphic
IMSI numbers format.
  • MCC = Mobile Country Code
  • MNC = Mobile Network Code
  • MSIN = The unique number that identifies the subscriber

IMEI

The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a unique identifier for the actual mobile device, this number is used to identify and track the device independently of the SIM card.

The International Mobile Equipment Identity is a 15-digit number found on the modem module of all devices with cellular networking capabilities. It uniquely identifies the modem installed in your mobile or IoT device within a worldwide IMEI database. The IMEI is specifically located on the IoT device’s modem, not the SIM.

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