Travel Tech: T-Mobile Makes International Access More Affordable

Posted on July 17, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Travel with 16 Comments

Taken with my Pixel 2 XL

T-Mobile’s new day pass option for international travelers makes it the most affordable option of the major U.S. wireless carriers. Additionally, T-Mobile has expanded its international coverage to an additional 70 countries and destinations.

“More than one in three families planning vacations this year intend to travel internationally, and Verizon and AT&T want you to pay twice as much every day when you travel abroad,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere says in a prepared statement. “With T-Mobile ONE, you just take your phone with you – turn it on as usual and it works – no worrying over your wireless bill, just enjoy your family time and see the sights.”

T-Mobile’s international plan, T-Mobile ONE, is now available in over 210 countries and destinations, providing customers with unlimited data and texting. For an additional $5 per day, however—about half the price of comparable plans from Verizon and AT&T—T-Mobile subscribers gain access to high-speed data and and unlimited calling while abroad.

This is a good deal. As some readers may know, I’ve stuck with Google’s Project Fi for a few reasons, but the most important is that international data is charged at exactly the same rate as normal data ($10 per 1 GB). And because Project Fi now caps subscribers’ monthly bills at $60 in any given month, I’ll never pay more than $60 per month for data, no matter how much I use or where I am in the world at the time.

T-Mobile obviously isn’t match that deal, and that high-speed data it offers is capped at 512 MB per day (where Project Fi is unlimited). But T-Mobile has at least one relevant and major advantage over Project Fi: It works with virtually any smartphone, whereas Project Fi is still limited to a handful of Google and third-party phones. And for people who don’t travel internationally all that much—e.g. most people—it’s obviously a better deal regardless.

So this is interesting timing, as I’m heading off on my first international trip of the year this Friday for our annual home swap. We’ll be gone for three weeks, so the most this trip can cost, from a cellular phone perspective, is about $100 ($30 for texting, plus the $60 cap for data), including taxes and fees. (And not including phone calls.) On T-Mobile, the international day pass alone would cost about $105, plus whatever the normal monthly cost is for the cellular plan.

Looking past this trip, I try to spend about a month outside the United States every year, and I do have about 9 more days of international travel scheduled for the fall already. So you can see why I cling to Project Fi. But this T-Mobile deal has me thinking. And I could see making a break.

Anyway, I’ll be writing a lot more about this and other travel-related issues over the next few weeks for Premium members. Stay tuned.

 

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Travel Tech: T-Mobile Makes International Access More Affordable”

  1. Cavorter

    I know the data without the day pass isn't full LTE but my experience on T-Mobile internationally (most recently in Canada in May) was that even the "reduced" speed data was just fine. Since I don't really make phone calls very often I don't really see a reason why I would want to pay that extra $5 per day. Plus I'm guessing you might be able to get around the calling costs by using their Digits app.

  2. Winner

    TMobile is great. We text internationally when we are overseas and still have enough speed on the free 2G data to use Google Maps.

  3. skane2600

    My daughter is vacationing in Europe for the first time and we just use WhatsApp to communicate. Works fine for texting and pretty good for voice. Of course if you're in area without WiFi you're out of luck but then again you could be in area with no or poor cell coverage too.

  4. elevation001

    Paul, I have first hand experience with T-Mobile two years now. We travel internationally to France each year. T-Mobile has been excellent for us even though it is 2G speeds.

  5. Simard57

    TMobile phones also support WiFi calling which makes voice calls free provided there is a free wifi link. This works for us while @ resorts that offer free wifi in public places


  6. James Wilson

    T-mobile seems to be the preferred when I travel to the USA from UK on Three.co.uk. For $15 per month for unlimited calls and texts plus 4GB 4G data, I get to use my allowance in the USA but only for calling the UK. The data is also limited to 3G when roaming too. I typically forget I’m roaming except for the steep hotel WiFi charges in the US.


    That at being said, hotel WiFi in Europe is expensive so nice T-mobile is getting there.

  7. burog25c

    I can't speak about T-Mob internationally, but just last week I saw (again) just how pathetic their U.S. coverage is, in a major city. Turns out my other halfs brother had T-Mob and couldn't get a signal for anything at all. His texts saying his train was going to be late didn't arrive until 3 days after he arrived. And forget trying to make a call. Like my own experience, a leaf falling from a tree in a mild breeze could be the source of a dropped call, which sucks when you're trying to coordinate between 9 people. AT&T? No probs for us. The T-Mob side though?


    Based on my U.S. exposure to T-Mob, I'd never trust it for anything... even overseas where it may be 9000% better.

    • Polycrastinator

      In reply to burog25c:

      What city, out of interest? I've had T-Mobile for a decade, and it's been great for me and very rarely has problems. I've seen it glitchy in NYC, but Chicago, Philadelphia, LA, Washington, all have been fine for me (international was pretty good too, although I didn't pay for the upgrade so it was sloooow).

    • evox81

      In reply to burog25c:

      I'd also be curious to know what city this was. Like Polycrastinator, my experience with T-Mobile over the past 12 years (minus 2 in the middle where I had AT&T) have been above average, especially in major cities. Here in 2018, I'd without a doubt, place them above AT&T in signal and speed.

      • burog25c

        In reply to evox81:

        North Myrtle Beach, SC. Even a few years ago when I had T-Mob for a while reception was crappy. Go several miles south in to Myrtle Beach, and it's good. And I'll say their data service was outstanding. But last week with my better half's brother? NMB had the same crappy service it had when I was with T-Mob. Literally, in a neighbor hood within 5 minutes walking distance and touristas all over the place. We have AT&T, and if I recall right her father has Verizon. No probs. But her brother and family all have T-M and literally couldn't get 1 bar.

  8. RM

    Now if T-Mobile were only available in my area! Well, that isn't fair, it is available for the same price as every where else in the US, but very lacking in coverage. So, only if T-Mobile didn't have horrible coverage. I am stuck with ATT or Verizon. No Sprint coverage either.

  9. JustMe

    I've had T-Mobile off and on for years. In addition to the benefits others have described, you can also get 1 hr free wifi on some airlines (I know it works on AA, at least). This is limited to your T-Mob device, but it means you can put your phone in airplane mode and still use wifi for things like email and text.


    Also, as James_Wilson mentions, its great when going to/from the UK.

  10. Alexander Rothacker

    I've had T-Mobile without problems for several years. Not quite the coverage of ATT when I'm in the CO mountains, but overall pretty good.

    And when traveling to Europe I've always had workable data speeds over 2g. Plus, there is plenty of free wifi in Germany.

    Calls over WhatsApp or Skype work just fine with the 2g service.

  11. evequefou

    I bought a dual-SIM phone specifically so that I could take advantage of T-Mobile's free texting while getting a local SIM for normal data speeds. $5/day is getting very close to the point where I'd be willing to just pay it rather than getting that local SIM in each country. I can probably still beat that price by buying a local SIM, but the trade-off is no longer so obvious.

  12. rohitnbi

    T-Mobile doesn't seem to be available currently available here in India. While we have many other options to save money in india while travelling.

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