24 Aug 2023 | Author: Adam Boother

Looking for an eSIM provider? Here’s what every business should ask before investing

The total serviceable global eSIM market is predicted to be worth £34.2 billion by 2025. This presents an unprecedented opportunity for travel providers to build loyalty and increase ancillary revenue by providing customers with high quality mobile data plans. As the market becomes more saturated with providers claiming they can help convert this opportunity, companies wishing to take advantage must do their research and ask the right questions to support long-term strategic decisions. In this guide, the experts at eSIM Go each address a key question – together sharing their insights on how to navigate the fast-changing and often complex eSIM market.

Wouldn’t it be quicker and less complicated to just work directly with a mobile network operator (MNO)?

simple esim

When it comes to MNOs, expect challenges, logistical hurdles and financial commitments. Operators tend to demand long-term commitments that often involve a lot of red tape and the kind of investment that easily runs into millions. Once committed, you’ll be locked into that operator, their coverage and their roaming rates (which can be unpredictable) for the length of the contract.

It’s also important to consider reliability. Larger operators are almost always fully resilient to five 9s standard, providing round-the-clock support and an army of engineering experts to tackle any issues. Smaller operators, however, tend to be a budget version of their larger industry peers. While they might appear to offer the same infrastructure and benefits, they tend to be prone to regular outages, and lag behind on launching new services such as 5G which quickly leads to unhappy end-customers.

At eSIM Go we maintain a robust balance of technical prowess and commercial stability, operating our own resilient infrastructure while simplifying the management of eSIMs. 

Our strategy is to partner directly with multiple complementary tier1 mobile operators, sidestepping the smaller, less reliable networks and aggregators, and their associated pitfalls. Should any of our network partners make adjustments to a roaming rate, we ensure our partners and their end-users don’t bear the brunt of those changes.

We have access to over 1,000 individual operator agreements, all meticulously tested and refined before selecting the very best for  our partners, so we can guarantee the very best coverage and rates the industry can offer. 

 – Darren Shaw, Head of Products (eSIM Go)

Do we really need our own hosted eSIM platform? Surely it would be easier to go through a host network partner?

A hosted solution is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean a compromise on control, visibility and the ability to diagnose and troubleshoot end-user issues. 

Platforms can sometimes go down and have issues, and if your provider is reliant on a single SMDP+ (subscription manager data preparation address) platform, any outage will lead to a critical failure of your business model. 

At eSIM Go, we operate three SMDP+ platforms, these platforms are geographically resilient, which means we can seamlessly switch between them whenever we detect any issues.

We also own all our platforms, which gives us complete visibility whenever an eSIM is installed or removed. We can even see the device manufacturer and model number. We provide this data to our partners and use it ourselves to diagnose issues, which often means we know the issue before our partner has even fully explained the problem. 

– Jose de Bardi, Chief Technology Officer (eSIM Go)

Is it better to select the mobile provider that offers the broadest coverage or the largest number of countries? 

5G eSIMSome mobile providers claim to cover several hundred countries and have over 600 roaming agreements, but such claims are often not what they seem. 

There are officially, without going into the politics, 193 countries in the world (as recognised by the UN). Having 600 agreements in those places may sound impressive, but if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that those 600 networks are over multiple network providers and include vast amounts of duplication. Often those networks are not even accessible as they are blocked due to unworkable commercials.  And, when sorted for commercial feasibility, few are viable against market rates, which renders them entirely unusable for consumer services.

eSIM Go offers over 150 countries of commercially competitive coverage. We could extend that to 185, but the reality is that after a cut-off point those extra rates are not viable for our partners to sell, and in countries that would not result in much traffic or revenue.

We also know, for the majority of our partners, 80% of consumer eSIM traffic will coalesce  in their top 10 destinations. Those destinations vary by partner. For airlines it’s often based on their most popular flight destinations, and domestic roaming charges. For fintech companies it’s driven by whether they are a consumer or business-focused provider.

That 80/20 rule is why we focus on helping our partners build their business case around their key destinations, and once we have that in place the remaining 20% will follow. Our team has business case templates and use-cases by industry to support our partners, and while we could easily lay claim to 190 countries and over 1,300 network agreements, we prefer to be value-led – and transparent about why. 

 –  Claire Connor, Chief Marketing Officer (eSIM Go)

How important is the source of connectivity, and what’s better, multiple networks per country or one single network solution?

Not all connectivity is created equal! When it comes to sourcing connectivity, there are three approaches and provider types to choose from: direct from an mobile network operator (MNO), through an MVNO/MVNE such as eSIM Go, or through a reseller – which is typically two or more steps removed from the mobile operator.

There is no wrong or right answer as to the best solution. There are fantastic resellers and extremely poor MNOs, and vice versa.

Our recommendation is to simply ask the source of connectivity and the relationship between the supplier and provider. Understanding where the connectivity originates from, along with your provider’s relationship with the mobile network operator or roaming partners it uses, is key to deciding on your chosen supplier.

As for what’s best out of a multiple network offering or one single solution, more doesn't always mean better. A single network is not always a bad thing, but things to look out for include whether that single network provides sufficient coverage in your top 10 key countries, and whether you’re looking at a well-known network operator or a smaller provider with a smaller coverage footprint. 

While it can be overwhelming sifting through a coverage list to determine if the network coverage is sufficient, we always advise starting with the top 10 and working through those first. 

 – Mitch Fordham, Chief Commercial Officer (eSIM Go)

What kind of eSIM options do end-customers want, and is it possible to control “network steering”?

invest in esimThe minimum most end-users expect now is 4G or LTE coverage and speed, but 5G is rapidly becoming the norm. If a provider is yet to roll-out 5G it’s important to ask what their strategy is and how they plan to resource rolling out their new agreements. 

Network steering over roaming is a common tool used by mobile network operators to guide their roaming traffic onto their preferred network partners. When used effectively it works well and only has a very minor delay for end-users registering on a network, as your ‘home’ network nudges you to its preferred local network partner.

However, network steering at a wholesale level is often done with far less subtlety, and occasionally with a very heavy hand. This means while a solution may appear to be ‘multi-network’ on paper, if aggressive and poorly configured network steering is used, in reality the benefit of multi-network is eradicated. Worse still, if misconfigured, steering can lead to service issues and huge delays in network registration.

eSIM Go sources connectivity directly from tier-1 mobile operators, which ensures we have a direct line to our suppliers if things ever go wrong.

We also offer multi-network coverage in most major countries, and where we use a single network, we always ensure it has the best quality nationwide coverage. We also employ no network steering in any country, which results in the fastest registration times and zero possibility of steering misconfiguration or issues. With our service the eSIM will always attach onto the strongest network available on first registration. 

– José De Bardi, Chief Technology Officer (eSIM Go)

How much support should end-users be given during their eSIM journey and what kind of technical issues might arise?

eSIM GoEnd-users can, and will, make mistakes, and support can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive. If a mistake has been made in the end-user journey, such as overlooking that their phone is an old model that’s incompatible with eSIM, you need to factor the added cost of processing refunds into your business case. 

Not having any sort of refund policy with your provider will mean you not only incur the cost of dealing with the end-user’s fault ticket, but you’ll also have to reimburse them or else risk negative brand impact  stemming from their often very public displeasure.

It’s also important to consider that some people buy data bundles they never use, due to trips being cancelled or other unforeseen circumstances. eSIM Go offers a no-quibble full credit “return to inventory” policy on all unused bundles purchased in the preceding 60 days. This can be executed through the eSIM Go Management Portal or directly via the API.

Our bundles are also available to use 12 months after purchase, which ensures maximum flexibility for our partners, who in turn can provide their end-users with refunds if they buy one by mistake.

– Lee Barnard, Head of Technical Ops (eSIM Go)

What is the medium/long-term evolution of the eSIM market and how should that influence our approach?

esim roadmapThe eSIM industry is moving at a tremendous pace. Multiple new eSIM apps are arriving in the app stores each week, which can make it hard to keep track of all the providers out there.

Any eSIM provider should be able to immediately share 12 months of their roadmap and give assurances that they are innovating and improving in three key areas:

  • Additional coverage and agreements including 5G
  • Improved and enhanced commercials
  • New features and services

They should also be able to provide you with a record of all new network services launched in the previous 12 months. If a provider has failed to launch many new network agreements (including 5G) in the previous 12 months it should raise concerns as there could be a risk of falling behind other providers who do continually enhance their footprint.

You should also be able to see a summary of any rate and commercial changes in the past 12 months. If a provider is frequently changing their rates you will need to invest time ensuring your own retail rates are constantly updated so you can maintain a healthy margin. It can also be a bad sign that they either have little control over their rates or are under resourcing their roaming/network procurement teams.  

At eSIM Go we are constantly re-negotiating our network partner rates and enhancing coverage through new providers. We have a dedicated expert team with a large industry contact book, which means we can access the best rates and coverage available.

Our pricing is often held in place for up to 6 months at a time, which means fewer changes for partners unless there is a significant reduction we want to pass on.

– Darren Shaw, Chief Product Officer (eSIM Go)

We want to ensure our customers get the best service. How can we judge the technical reliability and performance of providers before making a commitment?

low risk eSIMAsk to see a record of all fault KPIs and reports of service faults from the past 24 months. Some providers will say this information is confidential and refuse to share it, but any worth considering will have this data and be happy to share it with you. Any unwillingness to do so is a major red flag.

The reality is that roaming solutions, no matter how resilient, can and do go wrong. What’s important is how those issues and outages are dealt with. Monitoring, communication and time to fix an issue are all key when you have live customers that require support.

When consulting past reports, look for how frequent outages are, and what the root causes were. Occasional outages within a single network or country are to be expected, but a complete outage of all services is concerning and demands explanation.

At eSIM Go we maintain monthly KPIs and stats on faults and maintain a live service page with notifications of any outages or scheduled maintenance. This is available to potential partners for review.

 – Martin Leonard, Head of Commercial Sales (eSIM Go)

I’m being offered the world by everyone. How do I know who to believe and which provider is the most credible? 

When choosing an eSIM provider you’ll want to go with someone who’s transparent and willing to share everything you need to know about the technology and how it works, so you can make an informed decision. Knowledge is power, and with the kind of insider tips in this guide helping steer your research you’ll soon know what to look for including any false claims. 

It’s also important to go with a provider with strong values and the right combination of knowledge and experience. At eSIM Go we’re in a unique position in that our team offers a vast range of experience encompassing wholesale telecoms, airlines and sales and commercial. This means we can offer our partners a “dream team”, where the very best of both worlds come together. 

We’re also highly collaborative and partnership-led in the way we work, and that’s something that consistently comes across in our feedback. Our approach is extremely flexible and goes way beyond simply selling a product or service. We’re not just interested in our own success, we’re all about shared success and helping everyone be the best they can be. If that means flying over to the other side of the world to work on a project, we’re there. If time differences mean working out of hours, we’re prepared for that too, as our partners at Sydney Airport will happily attest to. Everyone likes to say they go the extra mile, but we really mean it.

And on top of all that, we also just happen to offer the highest quality tier-1 connectivity, the lowest industry fault rates, and a highly skilled ops team who work hard to keep things running like clockwork and are ready to jump straight in if anything ever does go wrong.

- Zacc Couldrick, CEO (eSIM Go)

Can providers’ claims be backed up by positive feedback from their business partners?

It’s easy to talk a good game, so feedback from other companies who have already executed a successful eSIM strategy can help you identify which providers can back up their claims. We asked some of eSIM Go’s partners to share their experiences. 

Sydney Airport 


“When we looked for an eSIM partner in 2022 eSIM Go immediately made a good impression. I was sold on their experience, background and knowledge over everyone else. Their platform is also hugely more flexible and superior to anything else out there. 

They set me up with a test account on their Management Portal straight away, and even as a non-techie I could intuitively create a test eSIM and assign bundles to it.

I used that first eSIM on a trip to Singapore and saw first-hand how good the service was.

My understanding of eSIM at that stage was limited but the team helped to expand my knowledge and provided the data and knowledge for the business case for what eventually became www.tripsim.com.au

In late 2022, eSIM Go sent a team to Sydney where they ran a design sprint with us and in 24 hours, we had a basic prototype under review. That prototype became a working functional MVP and over the next 6 months they ran a project where both teams collaborated to deliver a product we are incredibly pleased with.

One thing to look out for is how many eSIMs you’ll need to test. If a supplier can only provide 1-2 eSIMs, it makes it impossible to gauge with any accuracy how good the service is. eSIM Go gave us full access to the portal and enough test credit to distribute eSIMs across the wider Sydney team, enabling us to validate they were the right supplier for us.

The key for Sydney Airport was to understand where our customers are travelling to, and for how long. This gives us incredibly powerful and useful data about our passengers that we can analyse and use effectively. 

The eSIM Go team accurately captured those requirements in the design sprint and built this into our final design. It was this level of collaboration which meant we delivered a solution that was way beyond our initial thoughts about starting with a MVP and that is now translating into fantastic end-user feedback, and most importantly, sales! So far the experience is really high quality. We have low volumes of tickets, and the way they deal with any issues is hugely professional and robust.”

 – Michael J Brown, Head Of Commercial Analytics (Sydney Airport – eSIM Go Partner) 

Wizz Air

wizz air“Keeping connected is vital to our passengers, so it was only natural that we expand into this area – especially as we already advocate a mobile-based customer experience through our digital app where customers can make and manage their booking, and add on things like priority boarding, baggage, insurance and other services. 

The key aim across WIZZ Air is to connect our customers with the best rates and services when travelling, and we take pride in always staying one step ahead of the curve. eSIM Go’s ‘Powered by Breeze’ solution allows us  to offer customers access to hundreds of data eSIM bundles in target destinations in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and beyond.  We can now serve passengers with competitive data packages, as well as catering to the growing demand of data access wherever they travel.” 

 – James Goodwin, Head of Ancillary Revenue, WIZZ Air

What next?

If you’ve found this useful and are not already talking to us, why not book an appointment with one of our team? 

Our experience spans the full spectrum of the telecom, enterprise and travel industries, from telecom titans like British Telecom, O2, and Telefonica to blue chips like Microsoft and travel enterprises including Thomas Cook and Easyjet.

Contact us at sales@esim-go.com to talk through your requirements and arrange a free trial.

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