Roaming Report – Part 2 – Getting a Local US eSIM – How Hard Can it Be?

While I was in the US, I was using my German SIM card to roam through the different networks. When using a German SIM card, however, all IP data traffic goes back from the US to Germany and from there to the Internet. As the servers for my self-hosted services are in Europe, that’s not much of a problem. However, I also wanted to test some of the US specific features / limitations of mobile Internet access, and was prepared to spend some money to get a Prepaid eSIM from one of the US network operators. Prices in the US are significantly higher than in most countries in Europe, but it would not have kept me away. It turned out, however, that getting a prepaid eSIM from US network operators is not straight forward.

The first network operator I tried to get an eSIM from stated on their web page that the prepaid eSIM is also meant for travelers coming from the US. That sounded promising! However, they required an app to be installed on the device to manage the eSIM. I don’t like apps a lot but for the experiment’s sake, I went ahead and installed it. Unfortunately, the app didn’t like my device and greeted me with a “this device is not supported” error message when I started it for the first time. Too bad, because the device works just fine with eSIMs, and I’ve used it with quite a number of different eSIMs in the past. Ok, so I tried the app with my second device and again got the message that the device is not supported. So no way to get an eSIM directly from that local operator.

So I tried another network operator who also offered eSIMs for prepaid subscriptions with a similar, from a European point of view, hefty price tag attached (> $50 per month). No app was required here but the operator insisted that they will send me the bar code required for installing the eSIM by mail! By mail!? Seriously!? Hm, o.k. so also not for me.

Admittedly, network operators in my own country also still have their difficulties to offer eSIMs over the Internet to start a prepaid line. However, there are quite a number of sub-brands and MVNOs that offer prepaid eSIM with online activation. Perhaps such MVNOs or sub-brands exist in the US as well, but I unfortunately didn’t have the time to investigate further. If you know more, please let me know.

But I didn’t want to give up and thus went ahead and had a look at global roaming eSIMs provider I’ve used in the past to see if they would give me an exit point (i.e. P-GW) on the North American continent rather than shuffling all my data over the Atlantic or Pacific first. More about this in the next post.

4 thoughts on “Roaming Report – Part 2 – Getting a Local US eSIM – How Hard Can it Be?”

  1. Hi Martin,

    I was in the US in November and was able to get 7-day trial eSims from T-Mobile and Cricket. Both required an app on device but were provisioned OTA. Great experience in both cases and good network speeds. In both cases a US# was provided and I was able to make and receive calls. The registrations required a credit card but I cancelled before the end of the 7-day trial and no charges were made.

    Separately I used a trial data 1gb eSim from Irish MVNO GoMo and this worked well using T-Mobile’s network.

  2. Hi Martin,

    I’m guessing that the operator whose mobile app did not work was T-Mobile US & the operator which offered to send a QR code by mail was AT&T? Regardless, I’ve had a good experience with Google Fi which still requires an app for eSIM but activates instantly. Otherwise you can also look into US Mobile. It’s an MVNO that works on either Verizon or T-Mobile and I believe they should allow you to install an eSIM without an app. They will also provide a local US number with an exit point in the US. Hope to hear more on your technical findings about the networks in the US.


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