Revolut eSIM: white-label telco service aimed at digital nomads

The mobile-first bank app addresses the roaming Internet access needs of location independent professionals. While legacy banks warn from using their services abroad, Revolut deeply understands their digital nomad customers’ needs. eSIM is a vital offering that can improve Revolut’s overall business, while easing access to mobile data around the globe.

What’s eSIM, and what’s Revolut?

The embedded SIM, in short eSIM is a programmable hardware module smaller than nano SIM that’s already implemented in smartphones since 2017. If you use iPhone XS/XR or newer, you already have eSIM.

Revolut is a global neobank headquartered in the UK that offers a range of banking services within the app. They started in 2015 and are successfully expanding into new regions, serving over 40 million users. The eSIM is their new practical addition for digital nomads.

Revolut knows that their customers travel often

Most legacy banks are clueless when it comes to their clients being abroad. They expect a 9 to 5 worker that would spend at most 3 weeks outside their home country. Preferably, such clients should pay in cash while abroad and never use their payment cards.

Regarding that, my Polish friend had her bank account completely frozen, after trying to pay by card in Georgia. Moreover, the only way to talk to support was via telephone, and she needed to come back to Poland and in person dealt with the issue in their branch.

Revolut understands that if they are mobile-first, their customers are also very mobile. It’s challenging to verify how much of the 40 million Revolut user base are nomads. Nevertheless, in my experience, almost every nomad I know, already uses Revolut. Thanks to their mobile-first approach.

In a wider perspective, the current stats for nomads roaming around the globe can be seen on Nomad List. Each of us needs trustworthy banking services. Here’s an example from Pieter Levels, the founder and owner of Nomad List, who switched from his legacy Rabobank to Revolut:

6 years later I have a modern fintech bank like Revolut that auto detects [fraud] after 4 charges, freezes the card ????

A few clicks and 4 charges are reported for fraud and I get the money back

6 years ago Rabobank [Dutch legacy bank] made me file a police report in Taiwan (where I was) for the skimming that happened in Bali (???) then made me fly back to my hometown to let me use my cards again

Then tried to upsell me a mortgage and home owner’s insurance

Instantly left and got @Revolut and it’s been amazing since then ❤️

tweet by Pieter Levels [comments in square brackets are mine]

Fraud prevention in Revolut is something that they often boast about. Personally, I’m glad that they use smartphone location tracking to correlate it with card transactions. This simple technique is very effective against cloned card ATM withdrawals. Pieter, like many other nomads, was a victim of this scam.

Moreover, Revolut is utilizing collected location data to offer “lifestyle” services like stays and experiences bookings. And from now on, also eSIM.

Essential features of Revolut eSIM for digital nomads

Revolut is not becoming a mobile virtual network operator. That’s too complex. Instead, they are leveraging 1GLOBAL eSIM provider infrastructure. A move that I predicted in eSIM – the next big thing for the Internet:

eSIM plans could be a great bonus for any vacationers, travelers and of course digital nomads. Some companies already offer a SIM card on arrival to their guests. The next obvious step is to offer eSIM on arrival. Such dedicated plan can be customized to fit the travel activity.

As a Revolut customer, you can buy and manage the data plan directly within the app. Even once you’ve already landed in your new destination. Mind that you’d still need a prior data connection, for example via airport’s Wi-Fi, to buy and install eSIM in your phone. After that, you’re free to move around.

Sorting data abroad has never been so easy. With your eSIM connected, you can get online instantly in 100+ countries, and access the entire Revolut app without it using up your data

Revolut eSIM page

You can track your active eSIM Data Plans, your connection status and remaining data within the Revolut app.

Revolut eSIM T&Cs

Unsurprisingly, Revolut is rewarding their Ultra members with 3 GB global plan for each 30 days. That’s a 45 GBP monthly subscription that includes many other add-ons and discounts.

Moreover, since the data connection stream can be easily controlled on a smartphone, the Revolut app use doesn’t consume your quota. Therefore, topping-up is crucial for anyone who runs out of data while abroad. Which is everyone.

No WiFi? No problem. Set your eSIM up once in-app and top up anytime. With your eSIM connected, the Revolut app works without using up data — so if you’re all out, you can still top up.

Revolut eSIM page

Like the majority of eSIM providers, there’s no call and no SMS support. The eSIM is only for data, which is the most important communication channel. Revolut emphasizes that you can still keep your current phone number, as most new smartphones with eSIM already support Dual SIM feature:

The Dual SIM technology in compatible iPhone and Android models lets you remain connected with your physical SIM and your eSIM simultaneously. You can select which SIM to use for data connectivity and switch to the other SIM at any time. You can use your eSIM for data access and keep your existing phone number.

Current limitations of Revolut eSIM

I’m delighted to see this product on the market. The tiny plastic SIM cards that still widely in use are prone to being digitized. Revolut eSIM is a perfect example of the new use-cases that I listed in the aforementioned eSIM – the next big thing for the Internet:

Honestly, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. The digitalization of the plastic SIM card can unlock entirely new use-cases. Here are some of my ideas for the possible eSIM-driven innovations:

  • Laptops with built-in eSIM
  • Special plans for events
  • Travel activities – outdoor activity organizers, tour operators, hotels
  • Specific regions – continents, cities, mountain ranges, coasts, lakes, etc.
  • Single places – cafe chains, coworkings, colivings
  • Companies – employees, families, associations, clubs
  • Special cases – only messaging, only one app, only calls

Nevertheless, it’s a new and unexplored venue for Revolut, which means that a lot will change. Currently, the offer is limited to UK residents. Which may be related to regional regulations but also to a pilot program, where Revolut is testing if eSIM is a violable and profitable product.

The terms and conditions nor the product page specify the data quality. What’s the exact coverage? Which operators in which countries are included? What’s the internet speed, 5G availability and connection latency?

Regarding regional availability, Revolut lists over 100 countries where eSIM work. This will change due to geopolitics, operator agreements, technical advancements, among other reasons.

I haven’t used 1GLOBAL (previously Truphone), so can’t say anything about their service quality. This will highly influence if nomads using Revolut eSIM are satisfied and want to continue using and recommending it to others.

Lastly, keep in mind that Revolut eSIM essentially becomes your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Therefore, all mobile internet traffic is monitored and recorded. If you prefer to diversity your trusted service providers, choose another eSIM.

If it goes well, Revolut will earn by selling data plans and utilizing traffic metadata. Simultaneously, many digital nomads will gain access to useful service from a brand they already trust. Which, in the end, can lead to a long-term win-win partnership.

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