Great Travel Tool: T-Mobile Unlimited International Data & Texting (and Cheap Calling, too)
So, this might be the best thing that has happened to U.S.-based International travelers in a while (aside from U.S. banks offering Smart Chip credit cards, of course–click for link): T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan started offering Unlimited International Roaming in late Fall 2013. This is a complete game changer when it comes to communications while abroad.
Details on the Plan
The basic plan you’ll need is the “Simple Choice” plan, starting at $50/month for 500 MB of data and up to $70/month for unlimited data. All simple plans offer unlimited talk and text. If you choose the $70 plan, this will get you:
- Unlimited data abroad (Standard speeds ~128 Kbps. No tethering.)
- Unlimited texts abroad (back to the U.S. or within same country)
- Calling to the U.S. for 20¢/min
The best news? T-Mobile has completely stopped doing contracts, which means you can easily sign up for 1 month and then cancel if you just want to use it for a big trip.
Coverage is available in 115+ countries:
T-Mobile has got you covered
T-Mobile vs The Competition
As a comparison, here’s the best Verizon can do for you (just picked a few sample countries):
|Argentina||$4.99||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Canada||$0.89||$2.05/MB||Regular U.S. domestic rate|
|France||$1.29||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Germany||$1.29||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Indonesia||$2.89||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Maldives||$4.99||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Singapore||$2.89||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
|Thailand||$1.99||$20.48/MB||$0.50 send, $0.05 receive|
Take Argentina, for example: Verizon will hit you up for $4.99/min compared to T-Mobile’s $0.20/min, providing a 96% savings.
How To Get It
You can order online or in any T-Mobile store. Just ask for/select the “Simple Choice” plan. It will already come with International Roaming activated, but it’s worth confirming before heading abroad. Total price:
- $10.85 ($10 + tax) for T-Mobile SIM card (I’m using my own unlocked phone)
- $79.90 ($70/month + taxes/fees) for Simple Choice Unlimited Plan
Word of warning: I went into a T-Mobile store and signed up for the “Simple Choice” plan with unlimited talk, text and data for $70/month + tax. They asked for my driver’s license and social security number; I made sure to ask if they would be doing a “soft pull” or a “hard pull” on my credit (read about the difference here). The girl helping me didn’t have the slightest clue to as what I was talking about but I proceeded because it would have to be a “soft pull,” right? I mean, they’re checking my credit to make sure I can repay them around $100/month… Well, I was very wrong. I returned from the trip to find this added to my credit report:
My advice: Proceed with caution and be very clear with the customer service agent that you’re not consenting to a hard pull on your credit report.
Review of the Service
Germany, Frankfurt: Service worked great all over the city; I was able to use Google Maps easily. I had 3G data service throughout.
- Latency: 496ms 412ms 429ms 427ms 409ms 364ms 389ms 400ms 406ms 412ms
- Latency: 1051ms 451ms 422ms 726ms 488ms 430ms 439ms 440ms 458ms 450ms
Indonesia, Denpasar/Bali Region: The service was spotty, at best. My phone would often switch between 3G and EDGE data service. Despite the spotty service, having the phone came in handy and the speed (when I had service) was better than promised by T-Mobile (they only advertise 128kbps).
- Latency: 1739ms 5828ms 726ms 736ms 732ms 761ms 924ms 967ms 7559ms 1381ms
- Latency: 706ms 740ms 757ms 752ms 738ms 742ms 747ms 713ms 759ms 954ms
- Latency: 747ms 737ms 741ms 772ms 761ms 755ms 762ms 865ms 743ms 755ms
Indonesia, Ubud/Bali Region:
- Latency: 725ms 743ms 697ms 759ms 727ms 715ms 725ms 717ms 714ms 696ms
Indonesia, Jakarta: Didn’t run any speed tests, but I found the service to work fine: 3G data just about everywhere.
Singapore: We had an 8 hour layover in Singapore and went into the city. Not sure what was going on, but we had NO SERVICE IN SINGAPORE. I have a quad-band GSM phone so no issues there.
The Maldives: This country is not included in T-Mobile’s free data plan so I did not test it. Current voice rates are at $5.99/min, texts are $0.50 and data is charged at $15/megabyte.
BOTTOM LINE: Communications used to be one of the most costly/inconvenient parts of traveling abroad, but, now (thanks to T-Mobile), it’s not just affordable–it’s downright cheap. The service, while slow if you’ve already been spoiled off of running LTE or 4G data, is adequate for checking email or running Google Maps while on the go. I highly recommend using T Mobile’s new plan when traveling abroad.