Low cost GSM modules

Hi All,

I have a project which uses a SIM800L for sending SMS and making the odd call. With 2g being phased out I am looking for a 3g/ 4g module to replace it. There seems to be a number available on the market and some significantly more expensive that the SIM800L.

I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations on a low cost replacement module I could use?

Thanks in advance

Lee.

The reason they’re cheap, is because they’re end-of-life products.

I was using the SIM5320 for 3G projects, and now using the SIM7600 for 4G equipment.

Take note that you need to support 4G VoLTE if you’re planning 4G voice projects !

I've asked the same question a few years ago... what mostly bugs me (and still does) is that those 4G modules cost almost as much as a complete 4G able phone! 4G chips should be rather cheap, they're produced in huge volumes.

Those 2G SIM800 and related modules have been around for ages, and have always been cheap.

You’re spending too much.
I buy the 7600 modules (complete with connectors, power control etc) in bundles of ten, for around US$50 each - with some hardware customisation.
I won’t mention my supplier, as our trading is private.

lastchancename:
You’re spending too much.
I buy the 7600 modules (complete with connectors, power control etc) in bundles of ten, for around US$50 each - with some hardware customisation.

This is just pompous smartarse stuff, and it sounds like you are the one being taken down anyway. The 4G phone below was bought just to run a COVID app. That's about $US30, you are only allowed to buy one. Camera, charger and screen come at no extra charge, and no customisation required. So I'm not sure who would want to know your secret supplier.

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So one complete phone + 1 Bluetooth module that works with the Arduino to communicate with the phone is cheaper than that just a 4G module! Or maybe even use an ATmega32U4 in USB host mode for USB connectivity.

But then, with such an amount of processing power in that phone already, maybe no need for the Arduino at all.

wvmarle:
So one complete phone + 1 Bluetooth module that works with the Arduino to communicate with the phone is cheaper than that just a 4G module!

Dead right...
The first smartphone I got was a $AU49 Huawei bought specifically so that I could use Bluetooth Graphics Terminal with a Mega+HC-06. That was the combination made in heaven. The SIM stayed in the dumbphone for quite some time because I didn't have a car cradle for the new one. Besides, the Huawei offered no advantages as a phone - indeed, quite the opposite.

I think the local 2G service was shut down in 2012, and I have been waiting to see somebody use a real phone connected to Arduino via USB cable ever since. I'm surprised 2G is still available anywhere these days. Apparently it is, but maybe not for long.

Nick_Pyner:
The 4G phone below was bought just to run a COVID app. That's about $US30, you are only allowed to buy one. Camera, charger and screen come at no extra charge, and no customisation required.

I don't get it! :astonished: That only works for a month on 4G. Then you have to pay again!

I’m afraid I have no idea of what you are talking about - or what you don’t get. It’s a phone, just like any other phone. Not very flash though, needless to say, and I was wrong about one point above - there was no charger, just a cable. Also, there was only seven free days on the SIM.

Well, after those seven days, you can’t use 3G or 4G, so it’s useless! :astonished:

Just like with a SIM adapter... you do need to buy a subscription somewhere, somehow.

Paul__B:
Well, after those seven days, you can't use 3G or 4G, so it's useless!

The phone has been in service for about three months but, once again, I have no idea what you are on about, I rather doubt anybody else does either, and there's no point in continuing this.

wvmarle:
you do need to buy a subscription somewhere, somehow.

Indeed, or simply sign up to the plan that came with the SIM within seven days of you activating it. I would not have thought this would be so hard to understand, and assumed it is common practice world-wide. I would also imagine there are common consumer protection laws against selling a phone that becomes useless after seven days.

The reason a complete phone is cheaper than a dedicated 4G module is the economies of scale. If the manufacturers make 10,000 modules vs 500,000 cheap phones based on their marketing model, one of those dan be sold cheaper while still covering the dev costs.

The module I mentioned is basically a complete phone without a keypad or screen.
It has GPS/GLONASS, and has multiple USB & TTL serial ports. I’ve used about 100 of them, and no bad things have happened to me.
— signed
The Pompous Smartarse

My simple point was that to actually use the phone, you need to sign up for a plan which for that particular company (and you don't have a choice), generally costs as much as the phone every month! So asserting it to be a cheap option is moot. :astonished:

lastchancename:
The reason a complete phone is cheaper than a dedicated 4G module is the economies of scale. If the manufacturers make 10,000 modules vs 500,000 cheap phones based on their marketing model, one of those dan be sold cheaper while still covering the dev costs.

Still the price difference makes no sense whatsoever. Your argument makes it even make LESS sense to me.

Development has been done - for the phone. The GPS + 4G chips are obviously dirt cheap - a USD 39 phone includes them all, so those chips can't be more than a few USD by themselves.

Add a few USD for reading the datasheets and smacking it all on a simple PCB (if not just using the phone PCB design with some components left out and some headers added), a little for the production of that PCB, and I'm still a VERY far cry from coming remotely to understanding the USD 50 price tag for those modules.

The development cost of the phone is of course spread out over 500k units, but development of a complete phone is far more involved than development of just the GPS+4G module, and production includes high costs like the design of the moulds for making the case, and expensive parts like the display. I'm not convinced that even at those numbers the development and manufacturing startup cost per unit for the phone is even less than for the module.

Paul__B:
My simple point was that to actually use the phone, you need to sign up for a plan which for that particular company (and you don't have a choice), generally costs as much as the phone every month! So asserting it to be a cheap option is moot. :astonished:

I've seen brand new plan-free phones in the shops for the equivalent of less than 100 USD. I didn't check that offer in detail; does it have a SIM lock or so? It's been so long since I've seen this that I forgot about such restrictions existing...
Currently I'm paying about 12 USD per month for 7 or 8 GB (forgot - more than I ever use on mobile) at 5G. There are cheaper plans available, and even cheaper pre-paid options. Great for those Arduino projects that need to only now and then send some data out.

BTW, to the OP, if you’re eventually spinning your own board, you can buy the complete modem chipset, and load it up on your project for less than $10
It includes all the pin outs for the keypad & display - design your own.
I’d guess you could make a phone at home for less than $20.

It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

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