A Solution for Canadian Roaming Worthy of MacGyver

I haven’t received my notice yet. It looks like they won’t have things sorted out in time to test Canada coverage in a few weeks. I will test it, and report on the results in case they are useful to anyone. Though the results will probably be: “Hit the border, went no service.” While I will do testing during the 6 month trial, I will probably just surrender the line in the end as it was a secondary that was handy when I was in rural locations. I figure that testing while it won’t cost me and sharing the data with others may help some people out.

My primary line is on Mint Mobile/T-Mobile. I needed access to Canada roaming, and while not cheap, Mint could do that, RW couldn’t after they changed things way back when it all started… I tried changing to the Everywhere You Go service on Dish/RW as that included Canada roaming, but it has yet work.

I am in the process of Rube Goldberging/MacGyvering (select according to your generation) a solution to the Canada data roaming problem. 6 cents a minute for voice is not too bad, given that I’m not planning to make lot of calls while on vacation. If I do need a long call, I can find WiFi as I’ve tested that to work with Mint in Canada. The data charges are another thing entirely. 6 cents per megabyte. The modern web being what it is, this adds up at transwarp speed. Not quite going plaid, but costly. I have to take great care when away from WiFi.

If my data work-around works, I will write a (probably novella-length) report on the process. Steps 1 and 2 are complete. Step 3 actually involves being in Canada in a couple of weeks. If there is anyone with a similar use case to mine, they will be interested for obvious reasons, and some of the more technical folks will probably be interested in the technical minutiae. This tactic may also have value when I know I’m going to be in spotty T-Mobile coverage areas.


I’ll admit to being fascinated by what this MacGyvered solution you’re teasing might be. :smile:

6 cents per MB; isn’t that like $60/GB? Wouldn’t it be considerably less expensive to buy cell data from a Canadian provider while there?

I know the Canadian cellular market is among the least customer friendly in the world but surely there are Canadian providers offering cell data at something more reasonable than $60/GB. Or, if not and one owns an eSIM capable phone, what about an international eSIM vendor such as Airalo?

[quote=“rolandh, post:19, topic:368, full:true”]

I’ll admit to being fascinated by what this MacGyvered solution you’re teasing might be. :smile:

You basically hit the nail on the head here. My solution involves an eSIM provider. The tricky part is that my OnePlus 7 Pro doesn’t support eSIM. Not that I’m going to let that stop me. The steps I alluded to earlier involved getting around the lack of eSIM support on my phone and finding a provider. I found Manet Travel selling reasonable plans. The plan I am using for testing amounts to a bit less than half a cent per megabyte, over a 30 day lifespan for the eSIM.

I plan to have the RW/Dish/Boost SIM in when I cross the border just to see if it fails. If, as I expect, it does, I’ll pull in to a Food Basics parking lot near the tunnel and switch over to the Manet eSIM. Yes, this is possible. Before I tell you how I can do this, let’s see if you can figure that out as well. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I split the topic out because I believe it’s worthy of the attention.

The obvious way would be to use an eSIM capable device as a hotspot for your OnePlus 7 Pro. If there’s a less obvious way, I’m all :ear:s.

OK. There is a company in Germany, Telco Village GmbH, that makes an entertaining gadget called esim.me, which is a programmable SIM that allows you to turn an eSIM into a physical SIM. It is also the name of the web site for the product.

Next problem: My OnePlus phone is not compatible with the esim.me programming software. The web site offers a solution. When the esim.me card is not in programming mode, it’s just another SIM. You can stuff it into any device that knows what a SIM is, and it will present the active profile to the device. Depending on which one you buy, you can have something like 15 eSIMs stored in it at a time. The one I bought can handle two.

Now, this is where my tendency to keep old phones about pays off. My old Samsung Galaxy A11, which I bought from Republic Wireless after the change to T-Mobile but well before the Dishsaster, is on hand as an emergency spare in case my OnePlus 7 Pro gets damaged, lost, etc. It is A) unlocked, and B) supported by esim.me software.

I installed the software, inserted the esim.me card, registered it, and bought a 3GB/30 day eSIM from Manet Travel. I scanned the QR from the e-mail, downloaded the eSIM via WiFi, then after verifying it worked in the A11, I switched it over to the OnePlus. It works in the US. This is data only, as I have multiple voice apps available as long as I have a data connection, so I don’t need a temporary number, and the 6 cents per minute on Mint in Canada is not that bad if I don’t talk too much.

The eSIM I bought covers North America (US/Canada/Mexico). The cost for the North American regional plan is the same as for Canada only, so I went with that as, other than the testing of the RW/Dish/BoostInfinite SIM, I can just switch to the eSIM when I leave home for Canada and not have to play juggle-the-SIMs at the border.

The plan costs €11.20, which was converted to $12.32, which works out to 0.410666667 cents per megabyte, assuming the use of marketing MB/GB instead of proper ones…

Once I know either way about the BoostInfinite service, I’ll switch to the eSIM and make sure it works in Canada.

If this all works as expected, I can use Mint for voice and the eSIM for data and save some serious change.

Note: In addition to different levels of card having different capacities, Telco Village has a snag in the process. The smallest capacity card is also locked to a single device for programming. A size or two up and you are locked to whatever brand you first used the software with. At the high end there are no restrictions, but that also costs the most. You can change phones/brands for a charge. Since my A11 is now in spare/SIM programmer status this is not an issue for me, but some might be bothered.


An interesting gadget to be sure! I was aware SIMs are writeable but unaware of this product.

If I understand the gist of it, you are or will be programming the eSIM profile from Manet Travel to this device using your Samsung Galaxy A11, then swapping it to your OnePlus 7 Pro for use.

For me, since I already have eSIM compatible phones and no devices with two physical SIM slots, the concept of a programmable SIM is interesting from a technical standpoint but not something I would have a need for.

Nevertheless, what you have found is indeed a solution worthy of MacGyver!


Following up: I’ve been testing the eSIM profile and it’s a mixed bag. Waze works, web browsing works. My text and voice apps seem to run OK, although I haven’t tried them all yet. My Canadian phone app works (it lets me have a Canadian phone number so my Canadian friends don’t have to pay a fortune to call the US). Skype works. Some banking apps work, some fail with various errors. Video and audio streaming apps don’t work. VPN apps don’t work As far as I can tell, the failing apps don’t see internet connectivity. Some just report no network connection. More things to dig into. By and large, the really important stuff works.

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I’ve been testing the eSIM profile and got some interesting numbers.

Precise usage figures aren’t possible due to the Manet Travel monitoring page doing usage as percentage to a tenth of a percent, but I did what I could with what I could get.

I’ve been testing for a little over a week. The usage has worked out to about 459MB. This is the basis for my figures.

At 6 cents/MB, the cost would amount to $27.54. At 0.0045 cents/MB, this works out to around $2.06.

If I figure it on the basis of having paid for the whole data block, which of course I did, the overall cost for the week on the eSIM profile works out to 2.7cents/MB on the 3GB/30 days plan, or 1.1 cents/MB if I had used the 1GB/7 days plan, which, after this testing, I will do in future. If I find another provider with fewer application lockouts I’ll look to the closest equivalent plan.

My investment in the esim.me card was $38.15 including shipping. If I assume the $27.54 as my point to figure from (in reality, I would try to use as little data as possible at the 6cents/MB rate) and just figure the 1GB/7 Days plan, the savings on two trips to Canada saves more than I invested in the hardware. Since I started with the 3GB/30 days, my actual recover will be on the third trip, but testing is always a good idea.

I’m posting these numbers to give people an idea of the savings potential. Obviously variables such as where you travel to, what, if any, arrangements your carrier has for roaming, and hardware issues such as eSIM capability, esim.me compatibility, and any handy leftover hardware you may have lurking about will have an impact.

For me the key thing is that I do not have worry about data usage in Canada. My testing shows that my usage will not exhaust even the low-end eSIM profile for my typical trip duration. I can use navigation, chat apps, and my location-based games and still have plenty of data left for random web-surfing.


Follow-up note on the behavior of the Manet Travel eSIM profile. It uses multiple networks. I’ve seen Verizon, T-Mobile, and this morning I got an SMS from AT&T, which is a neat trick given that the eSIM profile does not have a phone number.

I have now completed my Canadian trip. Two sets of results: My RW/DISH/BoostInfinite line had no service. I will not be able to test Canadian roaming as my next trip is not until after the 6 month trial runs out.

My eSIM tactic worked pretty much as expected. There was a brief No Service bobble crossing the border as the eSIM profile sent the networks to connect to Austria (While Manet Travel is an Italian company, for at least this service, they use an Austrian network) after a few minutes service picked up and I was good to go. I had my data connection through TELUS while in Canada. Waze navigation worked. My Canadian phone line app worked. My language training apps worked. (Mondly and DuoLingo if anyone is interested.) Firefox worked. GeoohGo, a geocaching app, worked. Munzee worked. WhatsApp voice calling worked. The Google Assistant worked.

Precise usage info is not an option on this setup but I was able to work out that I had used about 534MB while in Canada without data charges drainging the budget. On the Mint Mobile roaming partner, the 6 cents/MB charge would have cost $32.04. I paid $12.32 for the plan I used for testing, so there is a savings of around $19.72 there. With the data I have now, I know that a 1GB/7 Day plan from Manet Travel would suffice and I would be in no danger of running out the data.

Phone calls worked as normal on Mint, with WiFi calling also being available.

This information is most relevant to those who, like me, have Mint Mobile for primary service and need to roam in Canada. However, the general concept could apply to others, but everyone will have to work out what works for their specific circumstances. For me, the savings are well worth spending 10 minutes and around $5 to buy and download a profile before leaving on a trip