Free roaming abroad – we test out a new eSim alternative

A new provider is offering free unlimited data abroad. Too good to be true? We take a look at Firsty, a free eSim that can be used in over 70 countries...

The Firsty logo.

One savvy MSE user recently contacted us about a FREE eSim called Firsty. It claims to offer unlimited roaming data in over 70 countries, including the US, Australia and Japan as well as most EU countries – see full list. I thought it was too good to be true, so on a recent trip to Italy I just had put it to the test!

I'm currently with TalkMobile, which allows me to roam in Europe for free (subject to a fair use data policy of 5GB). This is great and more than enough data for most tasks, including messaging, checking emails and route planning. But for the purpose of this test, I was able to install Firsty's eSim alongside my existing TalkMobile Sim. Once the eSim was installed, I could flip between roaming with TalkMobile and roaming solely with Firsty.

  Firsty Free Firsty Fast
Price Free €1.98/day
Amount of data (GB) Unlimited 2GB/day
Fastest speeds available?
Image shows the Firsty app displayed in a mobile network's home screen. Text within the app reads: "Congrats! 60 minutes of free data. You have earned 60 minutes of free data at lowered speed. This is sufficient for messaging, calling and basic navigation."

How can Firsty be free?

Firsty has two plans, Firsty Free and Firsty Fast (its paid-for service). For its free plan to work, you need to watch a 30-second advert to activate the Sim for an hour and you can activate as many one hour sessions as you like.

But it also throttles (limits) the download speed you get. This means load times for web pages can be long or they just don't load at all (more on this below).

The hour begins after watching the ad and runs continuously. This means if you only use it for a few minutes and then turn off roaming, the clock is still ticking. You'll get alerts when you're halfway through your 60 minutes and another when it's finished. When you need to reconnect later, you'll have to watch another ad. This can be inconvenient, especially for sporadic usage.

How slow is its free service?

I conducted several speed tests across different locations to determine its download speed and the results were consistently achieving around 0.12Mbps (or 120Kbps). To put this in perspective, this is a tenth of one megabit per second. Considering that 10 megabits per second is often considered the slowest acceptable home broadband speed, its speed can be frustratingly slow.

But surprisingly, this was still good enough to send and receive messages, check maps for directions and browse basic websites. But it wasn't good enough to stream a song on Spotify or watch any sort of video (YouTube, Netflix etc). Firsty told me that its download speeds will depend on your location, but it should always be quick enough for basic use.

It uses any network, so you can always get a signal

Another one of its features is its ability to use any available masts to get a signal. This means that no matter where you are, it's unlikely you'll find yourself in a black spot. I tested this in various remote areas and found the connectivity consistently reliable, mostly achieving either 4G or 5G signals (just without the 4G or 5G speeds).

Conclusion

Firsty's free eSim is a mixed bag. On the one hand, its free service and clever ad-based model offers a convenient way to stay connected abroad without spending anything.

But on the other hand, the one hour usage windows and the painfully slow speeds can become inconvenient. So if you need consistent high-speed access, you might find Firsty's free version frustrating.

For those who prioritise budget and can work around the quirks, Firsty is a valuable tool in the traveller's arsenal given it covers a lot of countries outside of the EU that most other Sims don't, or even as a perfect backup solution for when you're in a 'fair usage' pickle with your own network.

But for more demanding internet needs, you might want to explore its 'paid-for' service or see what other eSims are available that might better suit your needs.