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Does eSIM Make International Travel Easier?

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As tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple launch new flagship products and new devices, eSIM has taken center stage. Apple announced eSIM during their iPhone 14 launch event, but does eSIM make international travel easier?  

People around the world often have different cell phone strategies for when they travel internationally. A person living in North America may deal with higher roaming fees, while European travelers would swap SIM cards when crossing borders. It was common for Europeans to use a different card for any new country they visited. 

Many would actually carry an extra credit-card-sized SIM organizer for this very purpose. It was common in European train stations and airports to even have SIM vending machines. If the eSIM came out several years ago, it would have been a godsend for people who found themselves carrying multiple SIM cards. 

But what about today? Does eSIM serve a practical purpose for your company?

Carrier Differences When Traveling Internationally

A traveler will encounter three main scenarios to stay connected depending on their carrier. Verizon users will experience standard roaming with “international TravelPass,” “use in-country carrier” for voice and data, and “multi-carrier.”

The day pass is a game changer for short to medium trips. For just $10/day, Verizon customers get unlimited voice and messaging on their US number, using data from their data plan. When using your US number, you will see lower network priority. if a network is congested, you will be first to experience connection issues.

Like Verizon’s TravelPass, AT&T has their “International Day Pass” which works similarly.  The one little-known advantage is how they include a maximum number of days per bill cycle that they can be charged. It’s a nice perk even frequent travelers don’t notice. 

T-Mobile varies a bit from Verizon and AT&T. They provide unlimited messaging and 5GB of data as part of their currently available Magenta Plans. Calling on those is ¢25 per minute, so if you plan on making/receiving a large volume of calls lot of calls, or need more high-speed data overseas, they offer a few different International Pass plans ranging from $5-$50 International Passes that can last up to 30 days.

Advantages of eSIM when traveling internationally

Multi-carrier with eSIM or smartSIM is now a possibility for the iPhone 14 and other eSIM phones, but even before the iPhone 14 a dual-SIM scenario was achievable with the combination of a physical SIM and eSIM in the iPhone XS, XR, 11, 12, and 13. There aren’t many scenarios due to cost, but if someone wanted to use Verizon for Voice and have their US number and use data from the local carrier, that was and still is an option.

The benefit of eSIM is streamlining the SIM swapping process. If a traveler wants to use a local carrier or a local number with high network priority, they can activate service right from their phone. Europeans, specifically, who cross borders more frequently than North Americans, can activate service with a local carrier and number indefinitely. No SIM swapping. No store stops. No phone calls. That way, as they travel, they can quickly switch from one to another. The same is true of frequent international travelers. At least, in theory. 

That’s not to say the transition will be perfect…

eSIM Problems and Carriers Challenges

Carriers have had systematic issues with the eSIM transition. YouTuber Casey Neistat isn’t alone in having trouble. It’s still early to see if carriers are having more widespread issues, but overall this seems to be minimal and temporary.

There are a few known issues with AT&T and, obviously, Verizon customers. It’s annoying but not permanent. Once the transition kinks are worked out, eSIM will be faster and easier than swapping a physical SIM card. Customers of mine have used eSIM as intended without a hitch, and soon it will be commonplace.

Chris Moeller of 3 Tree Tech
Chris Moeller

Chris Moeller is a 5G and IoT researcher at 3 Tree Tech. If you want to integrate IoT technology into your tech or need mobility infrastructure help, he’s willing to lend you his big brain. Reach out!

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