GPRS Shield using SIM900 - Sharing my experience

I need cellular communication for a project, and have been researching it extensively.
Here are some learnings, I hope others find them useful.

  • Arduino GSM Shield vs. GPRS shield version 1.4 and 2.0
    The latter is about 1/2 the price of the GSM shield, is available from multiple suppliers, and has an AT interface which means minimum overhead if you are only using certain functions such as SMS (for example, in combination with Twilio). When using the GSM library to operate the GSM shield, half your precious 32k of memory are gone before you even write a single line of code! Also in case you need voice on the GSM shield, get out the soldering iron. In short: the cellular connectivity is exciting but the Arduino GSM shield IMHO is a resource hog. On the other hand, it comes with the Telefonica SIM which can be used worldwide for M2M (based on their claims).
  • Power
    You must use a power supply; using the USB alone may result in the shield turning itself off. Even a 9V battery may not have enough juice for the peak power draw of the SIM900 when transmitting.
  • SIM card
    I have an AT&T share plan and got an extra SIM card at the AT&T store. It worked “out of the box”. An extra line costs $15/mo. Unlimited texts, 10GBs of (shared) data…lots of headroom.
  • Signal Strength
    The 1.4 GPRS board definitely has a problem connecting when the reception isn’t great (e.g. 2 circles on an iPhone)… I had to move it around to find a favorable location. No such problems with the 2.0 board.
  • SoftwareSerial problems are possibly hardware problems
    The sketches on websites such as
    http://www.seeedstudio.com/wiki/GPRS_Shield_V2.0
    work on a known good V2.0 board.
    If they don’t work (for example, with the 1.4 board), you MAY have a hardware issue. Either a bad board from the factory or…I noticed that the breakout test points on the 1.4 version ports are right above the USB connector on the Arduino Uno board…a little pressure might short them out and fry either the level converter or the SIM900 signals outputs… Be aware of this. Put some electrical tape on the USB connector for protection BEFORE YOU FIRST INSTALL THE GPRS BOARD. In any case, this is just speculation.
  • Lithmus test: scope
    If you put a scope probe to the SIM900 break-out test points and you see characters on the Rx line but nothing (except a constant 2.8V on the Tx line) your board IS bad.
  • Timer2 Interrupts and Software Serial
    I noticed that when I was using Timer2 interrupts, I basically was unable to read from the SIM900. All I got was garbage characters. Possibly Timer2 interrupts causes some interrupt handler in the SoftwareSerial library to screw up (with other words, SoftwareSerial interrupt handlers don’t deal with being interrupted and/or are not re-entrant). I solved this problem by setting the interrupt mask TIMSK2 to zero whenever I am reading characters from the SIM900, effectively turning the Timer2 interrupts off. That’s not a problem (at least not currently) in my application but definitely unsatisfactory. You cannot simply turn interrupts because SoftwareSerial uses them. Maybe somebody more proficient than myself figures out what’s going on with SoftwareSerial reads if there is other hardware generating interrupts!
  • Hardware serial working but software serial not working
    I didn’t see this problem, and can’t imagine what may be causing it, other than a side effect of other interrupts in the system.
  • SIM900 Network time
    The network time feature provides real-time date and time information.
    To enable network time, use the command:
    AT+CLTS=1
    to enable the feature to get the local timestamp.
    After powering down and up again (i.e. re-connecting to the network), the command:
    AT+CCLK?
    then echoes the command, and returns the current network time, e.g.
    AT+CCLK?
    +CCLK: “14/04/04,11:29:08-28”
    This power cycling is necessary only once, i.e. the CLTS setting is global and persistent.

Hope these comments save people some time and tearing out of hairs…

—Michael

Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It’s good to see shares like this :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I am working on a project using SIM900 GSM Module and UNO, but came across a problem.
My UNO is automatically getting Resetting, don't know Y??
Worked like Cham in the start.

Ultimately, what I understood is, Problem is due to flooding of RAM (exceeding RAM’s capacity),
Now my file size is around 16.5K. In my application stored few Contacts as Strings in the code. Reason for the file size.
Need help my Project is not working.

My doubt is How much RAM is this library is using and are there any other Library’s which consume less amount of RAM?

Thank You.

Please clarify: Are you using the Arduino GSM shield? The GSM library is about 16k. And, it's not the SIM900 chip.

Or the GPRS Shield V1.x or 2.0? There is no library, communication with SIM900 uses AT commands.

There is only 2k of RAM for variables on the Uno. I understand strange things happen when it's full.

If you like, post your code and I take a look.

Yes, as said, I am using SIM900 Module and its quite working with Arduino's library’s (Arduino 1.0.5 IDE).

Actually, my project is to manage messages, When a SMS is received, depending upon text in the message. Reply ll be sent. Kind of interactive service.

So, just used SMS class and it’s around 15K only.

Thank you for response, btw got my solution. I used Lot of strings in my code for giving apt reply.
The thing is whenever an array or string is declared, Memory is always allocated in SRAM. RAM over looded :stuck_out_tongue:

That is the reason for resetting my Arduino automatically all the time. Solution is to store them in FLASH memory using PROGMEM library
Thought if I share it will be Helpful :slight_smile: :smiley: