Roaming Stories May 11, 2016

I once teased an American friend about the fact that only 36% of Americans hold a passport, compared to 83% of Brits. He quite rightly pointed out that in America you can fly for six hours and still be in the same country – Seattle to Miami, for example – while Brits can fly for an hour or so and be in any one of a dozen different countries. (I later did a bit of Googling and found he could even have said 11 hours: New York to Honolulu.)

For that reason, this feature request may be most relevant to Europeans and frequent business travellers, but I think it’s one that would at least fall into the nice-to-have category for anyone who travels.

The issue is mobile roaming charges. Use your iPhone in your own country and all-you-can-eat calls and texts are typically pretty affordable, with data being the main thing that determines how much you pay for your plan. But however much you pay for data at home, that’s nothing compared to roaming charges overseas …

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Roaming Stories May 9, 2016

T-Mobile today announced a deal with Cuban carrier Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba, S.A. (ETECSA) that will see its customers get access to voice, text and data while traveling to Cuba as well as lower rates on calls to landlines and wireless phones in the country from the US. expand full story

Roaming Stories September 17, 2015

T-Mobile expands Simple Global international texting and data, now includes all of Europe and South America

Today T-Mobile announced that its Simple Global Uncarrier move is expanding to cover 20 more countries. That means you can now take your T-Mobile iPhone abroad to anywhere in South America and Europe as well as many other destinations, and not pay any extra for data or texting while you’re there.

Roaming Stories August 17, 2015

AT&T enhances GoPhone plans to support 4GB data in Canada & Mexico

National carriers across the US have been adding features that make it easier to use their service in Mexico and Canada as a growing trend, and today AT&T has announced enhancements to its pre-paid GoPhone plans to include 4GB of high speed data use in Canada and Mexico as well as the United States. The new AT&T GoPhone feature goes into effect on August 21st and is supported on the carrier’s $60 pre-paid plan without making any changes.

In addition to 4GB of 4G LTE data for use across North America where available, the GoPhone plans include unlimited talk and text in the US, Canada, and Mexico as well. AT&T’s $60 GoPhone plan is reduced to $55/month for customers using the carrier’s Auto Refill automatic payment feature.

For post-paid subscribers, AT&T supports international calling and texting to Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands on its 15GB and 20GB Mobile Share Value plans that it simplified over the weekend. More similarly, T-Mobile enhanced its own plans last month to support 4G LTE data use in addition to text and calls in Canada and Mexico without international roaming fees.

Roaming Stories July 9, 2015

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T-Mobile’s mission to change the entire U.S. wireless industry took another step forward this morning. In an Uncarrier Amped move dubbed ‘Mobile without Borders‘, T-Mobile announced that it will offer its American customers free telephone call roaming to and from Mexico and Canada. For the first time, it will also include free 4G LTE data. Postpaid, prepaid and business customers will be able to make use of it from Wednesday, July 15th. It’s a killer move, and effectively erases the virtual borders between the U.S. and its neighboring countries.

Unlike the current Simple Global feature, when a T-Mo subscriber crosses the Mexican or Canadian borders, they won’t be reduced down to EDGE speeds. They retain 4G LTE connectivity seamlessly, providing there is LTE coverage in that area. T-Mo partnered with carriers in those two countries to pull this move off. There’s only one small asterisk — the feature is being offered in specific cities within Canada and Mexico — as discussed below…

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Roaming Stories June 30, 2015

Europe finally agrees to abolish roaming charges – but not until 2017

Europe is an odd place to live. In some respects, it acts like one big country (you can drive across it without ever seeing a border or showing a passport), while in other ways it is very definitely individual countries – like paying roaming charges outside your own country for calls, text messages and data.

We’ve been promised an end to roaming charges for what feels like forever, and the good news is that after years of discussion and debate, the European Union finally agreed to a date. The bad news is that the date isn’t until June 15th 2017.

It means that from 15 June 2017 you can use your mobile device when travelling in the EU paying the same prices as at home (domestic prices). For instance, if you pay for a monthly volume of minutes, SMS and data in your country, any voice call, SMS and data session you make while travelling abroad in the EU will be deducted from that volume as if you were at home, with no extra charges. This means the end of roaming charges as Europeans experience them today in their daily life.

The EU has gradually imposed caps on roaming charges, and the current ones of €0.19/minute for calls and €0.06 per text message aren’t too bad, but €0.20/MB for data is the killer, making it easy to rack up a hefty bill with perfectly normal use of a smartphone in other European countries.

The EU has also agreed to net neutrality rules, though watered down with exceptions for ‘innovative’ services that require higher than usual bandwidth – like Netflix. The EU says that these services can be prioritized so long as this doesn’t harm other services, but as everyone would otherwise get the fastest speed for everything, this provision doesn’t appear to have any real meaning.

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