How eSIMs can help you avoid expensive roaming costs when travelling

A traveller checking notifications on his phone. Picture: Unsplash

A traveller checking notifications on his phone. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jun 11, 2024


One of the biggest draws of eSIMs for travellers is avoiding expensive international roaming charges from their home carrier, says Mark Collie, director at global eSIM service provider KnowRoaming,

“Frequent travellers also need seamless global coverage without having to purchase multiple local SIM cards in each country, so they look for options that cover multiple travel destinations under one plan,” he said.

Embedded subscriber identity module (eSIM) technology is growing in popularity and with the winter holiday break coming up, travellers looking to travel abroad will no longer need to factor expensive international roaming charges into their holiday budgets.

Collie said that unlike physical SIM cards, eSIMs are built into mobile devices and offer users multiple lines that can be switched at their convenience.

“Because the embedded SIM can be remotely programmed, travellers visiting foreign countries can still use their same number but on a different profile loaded with data, talk time and other mobile services,” Collie said.

He said this technology's uptake has been remarkable in North America and Western Europe and its popularity is expected to surge further as thousands of sports lovers are expected to descend on Paris for the Olympics in July and August.

According to findings released by research giant Juniper in April, the global number of eSIM users will increase from 40 million this year to 215 million in 2028 in the international travel space alone.

Juniper predicted that the global eSIM market will grow from R19.16 billion this year to almost R167bn in four years. These figures are based on the fact that nearly 400 mobile service providers have launched these services for smartphones across 116 countries since June last year.

With the expected surge in popularity of eSIMs, Collie said travellers also want the flexibility to keep their primary SIM in their device to receive incoming calls and SMSes, ensuring they remain reachable on their regular number while utilising an eSIM for data services.

He said customers always look for established brands in the eSIM space, positive user reviews, and excellent customer support channels when selecting an eSIM provider.

“Various platforms offer different methods for purchasing and activating an eSIM. Some facilitate the process through their website, others provide a dedicated app,” Collie said.

He said irrespective of the platform, the digital purchasing flow is straightforward.

“Users click on an install link or button, scan a QR code or enter a provided activation code, and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the set-up process. From there, it’s simply a matter of switching the mobile data connection to the new eSIM profile and enabling data roaming for that particular channel,” he said.

Collie said one of the most critical aspects is that an eSIM provides a high-quality, low-latency connection and can share data via a hot spot.