T-Mobile Worldwide Free Data Roaming – Review and Report
While European regulators in particular have been struggling to lower roaming charges for Europeans traveling in other countries, T-Mobile, a U.S.-based telecom company, beat everyone to the punch and not only lowered data and text roaming charges, but eliminated them completely for its customers.
Americans take roughly 30 million trips overseas each year, and many come back not only with souvenirs but with large and unexpected bills from their mobile operators.
As of the start of November, T-Mobile eliminated the data and text roaming fee in over 100 countries, including those most visited by U.S. citizens (such as France, Germany, and Japan), and lowered the price of a voice call while roaming to 20 cents per minute.
I should clarify one thing: T-Mobile is not giving away LTE-speed data. This is a low-speed service but it is eminently useable.
At first, I viewed the free offering as more of a marketing stunt, but my experience in travel in Europe since the program started has proven otherwise.
USING T-MOBILE DATA ROAMING
I looked forward to my first experience using T-Mobile’s free data and text roaming almost the same way that I had looked forward to using the first-ever true world phone, the Bosch 718, back in 1998. I remember landing in Switzerland, turning it on, and looking at it with a certain amount of awe because it registered on a Swiss network. Before the Bosch 718, all phones were limited to their home geographic areas.
Arriving at London’s Heathrow airport, I did the same thing and started getting texts and messages via iMessenger (Apple’s texting service which uses data). And all of it was free.
I did a speed check while waiting for the Heathrow Express and, even in the depths of the train station, the signal quality was enough to support communications: 0.8 Mbps downstream and 0.10 up. While the service is slow, it’s more than sufficient for basic needs. I regularly achieved speeds of 0.12 Mbps downstream and 0.10 up. This is faster than the speed I see on some in-flight Internet systems.
Some services were not supported due to the slower data rate, including the ubiquitous Google Maps app as well as the Siri personal assistant. Google Maps worked fine via a browser, however.
Throughout my international use, I only received a few phone calls but those cost a mere 20 cents per minute, as compared to 99 cents under the old plan. Voice quality was good; the discounted price doesn’t mean discounted quality.
Other U.S. mobile operators, namely AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, continue to charge for data and text roaming although several have plans for a discounted purchase when traveling. No one has moved to copy T-Mobile’s model, although I believe that’s where the industry is going.
T-Mobile’s predecessor, Omnipoint, won me over by offering GSM (the international standard versus CDMA) and the Bosch World 718 phone 15 years ago.
Given the simplicity and affordability of the plan, I think I’ll continue to use T-Mobile.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)