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TelnaJul 8, 2024 8:27:05 AM4 min read

Travel eSIM: Strategies and Tips for Mobile Network Operators

Travel eSIM: Strategies and Tips for Mobile Network Operators
In a previous blog, we discussed why travel eSIM is a growing opportunity for mobile network operators (MNOs). Now, we’ll look at the market in more detail and explore the strategies that MNOs should have in place to position themselves for success.

What Do Travel eSIM Customers Need?

The first step to establishing a winning eSIM strategy is understanding the changing needs of roaming customers.Global travel, and consequently, roaming saw a significant decline during the pandemic, dropping by over 65% in 2020 and 2021. In 2024, international travel is now back to pre-pandemic levels, but roaming levels still aren’t as high as they could be for maximum profit. According to a survey run by Kaleido Intelligence, at least 20% of global travelers operate as silent roamers, either not using their phones at all while traveling or only doing so when they can connect to Wi-Fi.

The reasons why are multi-faceted, with 50% of silent roamers naming multiple factors that push them not to roam with their mobile connectivity provider. The main points are:
  • Price: Wishing to avoid extra costs while traveling – the experience of a huge “bill shock” – was the #1 reason why silent roamers remained silent.
  • Convenience: Many silent roamers simply find it easier to rely on Wi-Fi while traveling and skip the hassle of setting up a new SIM card to benefit from local mobile services.
  • Quality: A large number of respondents felt that using a local SIM card while traveling provided them with better-quality connectivity and a superior user experience.

Positive Change in Market Conditions

Users may have strong beliefs about using their phones while traveling abroad, but they are not necessarily against the concept of roaming. The main issue is that, up until now, there has not been a cost-effective and user-friendly solution for travelers to use their phones internationally. According to the Kaleido survey, 70% of silent roamers would be open to using a roaming alternative if it was available to them.
Now, with the increased availability of travel eSIMs, customers finally have access to a perfect solution for international roaming. This shift in the travel eSIM market presents a great opportunity for Mobile Network Operators to change their customers' perceptions about using their phones abroad. Let's explore the reasons why this is the case.

eSIM Adoption: Higher Than Ever

According to the Kaleido survey, there has been a notable increase in the global usage of eSIM, with 25% of respondents using it through different methods like app activation or QR code. This is good news for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) aiming to enhance their presence in the eSIM market, particularly after a slower growth rate observed in Kaleido's 2021 survey. It seems that the popularity of eSIM is on the rise.

eSIM Compatible Devices on The Rise

Currently, only about 25% of smartphones are eSIM-enabled, many of them premium models with a higher-than-average price point that not every smartphone user can afford. By 2028, it is expected that the number of eSIM-enabled smartphones will be closer to 75% and that mid-to-low-tier devices will also have eSIM compatibility. This will make eSIM usage a lot simpler and more widespread across the user population.

5G Network Availability

The evolution of 5G networks globally is also an important factor in accelerating eSIM growth. Users who switch to eSIM can keep their network settings automatically updated and benefit from higher speeds and more reliable, lower-latency connectivity on 5G networks than users of a physical SIM card.
With these positive forces behind eSIM growth, MNOs are already set up for success in many ways. To harness the opportunity to the maximum, however, they must take into account some considerations.

MNO Strategies for Long-Term eSIM Success


Improve 5G Proposition

As we discussed, there is a direct correlation between 5G and eSIM. Customers have a very good reason to switch to eSIM if doing so means benefitting from the higher speeds and lower latency of a 5G standalone network. Continuing to roll out 5G can be beneficial for MNOs looking to establish an eSIM offering.

Embrace Collaboration with eSIM enablers

The use of travel eSIM opens up many profitable partnership opportunities for MNOs with important players in the travel industry, like hotels and airlines. To maximize revenues, MNOs should make the most of these partnerships, especially with domestic or regional brands that might be open to co-branding or launching products together.

Facilitate the Adoption of eSIM By Customers

Remember that ease is one of the most important factors for customers taking on a new solution. To make travel eSIM as simple as possible, MNOs should invest in providing user-friendly applications that feel intuitive to the customer and don’t take a long time to set up. That way, customers will more quickly learn to love the flexibility of an eSIM solution over a fragile physical SIM.

Watch Our Webinar Series for More Insights

Curious to learn more about the travel eSIM market and the opportunities it represents for your business? 
Watch our two-part webinar series, created in collaboration with Kaleido Intelligence, for a true deep dive into the synergies between MNOs and travel eSIM. 
For even more information, read our whitepaper, which brings you fresh insights on what users want out of an eSIM solution.
About Telna:
Telna provides a fully managed wholesale platform for Mobile Network Operators. Continuously at the forefront of roaming technology, Telna virtualizes mobile core networks, granting direct access to all networks.


Marketing Team



Telna provides Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), Communication Service Providers (CSPs), and Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) with a fully managed global cellular connectivity platform. Telna has the largest 2G – 5G, LTE-M to over 800 radio network operators – 300 in direct partnerships – in 200 countries. Its global multi-network connectivity platform enables simplified integration to any platform and enables local break-out with localization that utilizes cloud infrastructure. With one integration to Telna’s platform, we have enabled millions of devices with multi-network connectivity, enabling innovative solutions in the cloud.