Are eSIMs a better deal than your phone company’s roaming plan?

A press release from Freedom Mobile landed in my inbox this morning announcing its “Roam Beyond” plan aimed at international travellers and while it’s cheaper than a lot of other roaming plans that other Canadian mobile providers offer, it might be more expensive than coupling your existing plan with an eSIM from providers like Airalo or Sparks.

Freedom Mobile’s “Roam Beyond” plan lets customers stay connected in 73 destinations including the United States and Mexico, popular locations in Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East and others.

The package gives you 60 Gb of international mobile data for the introductory price of $65 per month after a digital discount.

“We’re shaking up the international roaming market, which our competitors have allowed to stagnate for too long. We continue to disrupt the status quo and go above and beyond our commitments to Canadians,” said Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Quebecor, the parent company of Freedom Mobile, in the release.

What isn’t obvious in the release is that the $65/month plan  pairs the roaming plan with a regular Canada-wide calling plan. Normally, a national plan with 40Gb of data from Public Mobile costs about $40 per month so you’re effectively getting 20 Gb more of data and international access for an additional $15.

You’d have to do the math based on your own plan with your existing provider and your travel needs, but with eSIM providers like Sparks and Airalo, you can buy electronic SIM cards for individual countries and regions for a few dollars, if all you need is a gigabyte or two of data over a week. They also offer more expensive plans for entire regions or continents that offer 10 Gb of data or more that can be used over longer periods.

If you haven’t used them before, eSIMs act like the physical SIM cards that travellers would buy from local providers in the places they are visiting to load into their phones to take advantage of lower local prices.

These eSIM cards give you data only access to local cellular networks and are not for calling home or sending texts to your friends, but with apps like iMessage, WhatsApp, Skype, TextNow and the like, it’s easy enough to stay connected using data only.

The catch with eSIMs is that they only work on the latest phones, so if you want to try one out the next time you travel, be sure to find out if your mobile device supports the technology.

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