New AT&T Passport Plan For International Travel

Filed Under: Travel Technology

Staying connected while abroad is something I really struggle with. Generally speaking I don’t sign up for a phone plan when abroad, so simply use hotel wifi and hotspots to stay connected, and then use Google Voice and Skype to make phone calls. It generally works for me, though now that I often spend weeks at a time abroad, I really do need a better solution.

The innovative T-Mobile Simple Choice International Plan

Earlier in the year the T-Mobile Simple Choice International Plan really innovated connectivity for frequent international travelers. As part of that plan, consumers can get unlimited international data and texting in 122 countries at no extra charge and flat-rate calls for just $0.20 a minute. Equally awesome is how simple the plan is (as the name suggests). There is no need to get a special plan or activate it when traveling. You just turn on your phone when you’re abroad and it works.


Naturally I’ve been extremely tempted to switch to T-Mobile, though still haven’t pulled the trigger. I currently use AT&T, and was ready to dump them in favor of T-Mobile. The only problem is that 90% of the people I ask about T-Mobile look at me in pure horror because of how bad their coverage apparently is in the US (to those of you with T-Mobile, is it true?).

I even have friends that keep a T-Mobile plan exclusively for when they’re traveling abroad, and then still use AT&T when within the US.

New AT&T Passport Plan

I suspect AT&T has gotten a lot of pressure from users to introduce a similar plan, so today they’ve announced the AT&T Passport Plan.


AT&T’s Passport Plan is only valid for 30 days at a time and has to be activated. Through the plan they’re offering unlimited messaging and wifi, reasonable calling rates, and international data, valid in over 150 countries (check out the full listing of countries).

The most basic plan, Passport, costs $30 for a 30 day period, and includes unlimited messaging and wifi, $1 per minute calls, and 120MB of data.

On the other end of the spectrum they have Passport Pro, which includes unlimited messaging and wifi, $0.35 per minute calls, and 800MB of data.

Here’s a chart with the three plans they offer:


I’m not much of a tech guy, so I don’t totally follow the “unlimited” messages sent and wifi offering. The wifi is described in the FAQs as follows:

The AT&T Passport app is a free downloadable application for iPhone®, iPad®, and Android™ devices that enables customers with an AT&T Passport or AT&T Global package to connect to participating AT&T international hotspots.

So are we just talking Boingo-style hotspots, or…? Obviously this would make a big difference when dealing with limited data.

Is the AT&T plan competitive with the T-Mobile plan?

On one hand I do appreciate AT&T’s new offering. It’s better than nothing, and does seem to be better than what they were previously offering. I’d probably use either the entry or mid-level plan if traveling abroad.

But I’d also hardly call it a response to what T-Mobile offers, which is as unlimited and “no strings attached” as these plans get.

At the same time, AT&T’s new offering might just be enough to get me not to switch. If T-Mobile’s coverage is as bad in the US as I’ve been told, then I’d struggle with making the switch.

What do you think of AT&T’s Passport Plan? And has T-Mobile’s Simple Choice International Plan caused you to switch to them?

(Tip of the hat to Travel Skills)

  1. Lucky,

    Our company switched to T-Mobile from Sprint about a year ago. Along with it came the international plan for me. I love the simplicity and the service is excellent. With an iPhone on some trips I have needed to reset once landed and it activates. Other trips it has activated immediately. You will switch from carrier to carrier as you cross borders or service areas. That said, T-Mobile isn’t great domestically but then again, either was Sprint. I know others on ATT and they aren’t telling me they love the service either. I am not able to speak to the fees on both as my company pays for the service and I have a plan that covers 100% phone and data. Bottom line, I do like the T-Mobile plan and service overall.

  2. I considered switchig to t mobile but after the test drive I realized it did not meet my domestic needs. Poor coverage at home and at work. But I do applaud te availability of the test drive to figure out if it meets ones needs.


  3. What is troubling to me about the AT&T plan is that it states “Messages Sent” are unlimited. What about “Messages Received”? Will there be a charge for those?

  4. Eh. Right now with AT&T I pay an extra $30/mo for 200 mb. My normal plan is unlimited text domestic and international. I’d actually lose switching to the $30 version of this plan.

  5. Tmobile is awesome in major metropolitan areas and their suburbs. I mean faster than your in home WiFi fast for internet and full bars for calls/texts! Once you venture out further it gets a bit hairy. So if your like me and spend 95% of your time near major cities, (including abroad btw) your golden.

  6. This doesn’t look at all different from the international plan they have offered for quite a while. Maybe they just gave the tiered offerings new names.

  7. Nothing’s changed except the branding and the inclusion of unlimited WiFi at Hotspots where AT&T has partnerships.

    Otherwise, it’s been the same $30/100MB, $60/300MB and $120/800MB price/data buckets for over two years.

  8. Agree with @gavinmac. This just seems to be repurposing of what they already have.

    What an odd statement on AT&T’s part for saying free WiFi. WiFi is always free and doesn’t have anything to do with the carrier. I realize they’re offering some sort of hotspot plan, but seriously – very odd marking speak!

    T-Mobile’s free international data is Edge, which is the 2G network I believe. Can someone comment on to it’s usefulness. Is it really just there for email or can it be used for browsing and Google Maps? Is it too slow for some of these more data hungry apps? I sometimes find I even get annoyed at 3G speeds since I’m used to 4G LTE now.

  9. This is disappointing.

    The same is nearly identical to the old plan. IMO = old plan = awful.

    I never thought I’d turn into one of those guys whose constantly switching out SIM cards, but that’s what ATT has done to me.

    I want to change to T Mobile but, like you Lucky, my friends look at me in horror.

    Today when I tried to sign up for Test Drive, T Mobile said ‘sorry, we’re all out in your neighborhood’ – must be a popular program!

    I worry that if I change from ATT, I’ll love my unlimited data that I’ve been grandfathered into since the 1st gen. iPhone.

    What to do, what to do…

  10. Why don’t you just get a mifi from XComGlobal for $15 a day? I always get one and it serves as a back up when you have poor hotel internet. It has been a Godsend.

  11. I switched 2 weeks ago from ATT to T-mobile…had been an ATT customer since 2001. We added a line to our family plan and still pay $40 less a month than we were with ATT. the T-mobile service is great in our house and town but this past weekend we went up to NH and it was Edge everywhere which was somewhat disappointing. As long as you stay in a big area it’s a no brainer to switch. Even paid my ATT ETF.

  12. My experience with T-Mobile in the US is exactly the same as Brendan’s. It’s great in cities, not great in the sticks, but that works just fine for me.

  13. These plans are actually different.

    to clear up a bit of the confusion in the comments above.

    INCOMING messages were always free to receive, but cost to send.
    The most recent DATA bundle for AT&T World Data was 120MB for 30$, and then 30$ for each extra 120MB. If you bought 300MB upfront, you got a little break.

    Historically, one had to buy a DATA bundle, and if you wanted a MESSAGING bundle (10$ to SEND 50 messages, then .40$ after that), and if you wanted to a CALLING bundle. Usually about 30$ upfront for about 20 minutes of calling, or 60$ upfront for something less than 60. I never did the calling bundles.

    NOW what it seems they have done is combined DATA with UNLIMITED MESSAGING (this wasn’t even an option before) and then are providing ACCESS to reduced price calling starting at 1$.. IMHO this represents QUITE a bit more value. At a minimum one doesn’t have to actually BUY The messaging bundle anymore and one gets access to make pretty cheap international calls for free. So, overall for someone who bought data and a messaging bucket, its about 25% cheaper now for the same 120MB data and messaging.

  14. Thank you TIVOBOY for the clarity.
    I’ll check tonight/tomorrow to get the latest on this plan and share back here.

    And yes, incoming text messages are free on all our current plans. It is only the outbound texts that cost money.

    One word of caution – iMessage uses your data bucket, not your SMS allotment. Same for some Android messaging apps like Google Hangouts. So, beware what you’re using that consumes data.


  15. I will agree that t-mobile domestic coverage in the sticks pretty much sucks (as does Sprint and AT&T) – but on the road internationally (Europe, eastern Europe, Middle East, Asia and Southeast Asia) I wouldn’t trade it for any other US carrier – I’ve spent much of the last 15 years on the road in those countries and never missed a beat with T-Mobile coverage.

    Even Japan who used to be locked into their own non-standard cell network, works just fine after the “Welcome to Where Ever the hell you just landed” text message… Those who complain about T-Mobile probably live in the sticks and have never traveled outside the US – they should probably stick with Verizon.

  16. I’m on T-Mobile and the coverage is generally fine, even off the beaten path. I’ve had Sprint and AT&T in the past. Sprint was terrible when I had it, AT&T was better but not great. When I switched T-Mobile worked better for me than AT&T. I understand that there are some places where T-Mobile isn’t great. But sometimes it seems its the phone software and rebooting the phone makes it work better. At the end of the day it is still a radio technology and it’s never perfect.

    But there are two things I totally love about my T-Mobile service: it allows for tethering my laptop when I need it. And the international plan is pure beauty and simplicity. No worries about extra charges for texting and data. The data is fast enough for decent use of maps (download them ahead of time), Facebook, email and browsing, really anything but video. And no overage charges. And voice is 20c/min. No extra monthly charges.

    I don’t see how this AT&T plan closes any part of that gap.

  17. This is some kind of hilarious April Fools joke, yeah? 120mb for $30 is the funniest thing I’ve heard all day long.

    I switched to T-Mobile from Sprint (which was an equal hilarious joke, their “coverage”), and then went and spent 3 weeks abroad…a few days in London, a little over two weeks in Cape Town, two days of transit via Doha. Phone worked everywhere I went. I used it liberally to call Ubers, email, text, social media, etc., and I didn’t pay a penny extra for it. I remember being confused for about 30 seconds while sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow trying to get it to connect, but just a simple setting on the phone fixed it.

    If you spend any time abroad at all, making the switch is an absolute no brainer. They even gave me $350 to get me out of my Sprint contract. I don’t mean for this to sound like a T-Mobile commercial, but hassle free communication when traveling is like a top 5 love language for me. Does the phone work well when driving in say Bucksnort, Tennessee? No. But I couldn’t even get my Sprint phone to connect to the data network in downtown Nashville, so this was a thousand wins rolled into one.

  18. Doesn’t seem this great. We have Sprint right now but seriously considering switching to T-Mobile. Will probably do a T-Mo trial in a little bit to compare coverage at home, work, around town, etc.

  19. Tmobile coverage is equivalent everywhere I have been (SF, socal, NYC) – and frankly, AT&T was pretty bad in NYC and SoCal. I routinely had bad call qualities and dropped caaltrain; ironically I have not had that with TMobile.
    Also, TMobile data is not EDGE data abroad. No clue where the person got that info. Was just in Japan and got a mixture of LTE and 3G. In Europe it was 3G. Free is a hell lot better than $30/mo extra and my monthly plan is cheaper than what AT&T charged – and I had a corporate discount for AT&T.

  20. Another T-Mobile vote here! Just moved to their promotional plan- 4 phones, unlimited talk and text, 2.5GB of high speed data for each line. $120 a month including taxes/fees, with no contract and can drop/add lines anytime I want. Can’t beat it if the coverage is good in your area. Going to Europe next spring and excited to have a simple option that I don’t have to think about to get the basic coverage I need while on vacation.

  21. I moved from T-Mobile about two years ago to AT&T, purely because of reception at home (promises of replacing the local cell never materialized).

    I find that AT&T is a bit better that T-Mobile in domestic coverage. Internationally, I preferred T-Mobile because they had UMA where I could use my phone for calls (sending and receiving) and texting in WiFi areas like in the hotel (and because of what I believe may be their ownership by Orange, never got charged for data in Germany). It also helped at home without out the need for a femto cell or signal booster. T-Mobile appears to be advertising this feature now, while it’s been around for years.

    However, I wanted to be connected at all times, not just in WiFi areas, so I went to AT&T where I could at least buy a somewhat reasonable international data and text service. Domestically I’ve never had a problem with AT&T coverage, and with their unlimited everything plan I have (10GB data family plan) I don’t even pay attention except if I want to stream movies, I’ll wait until I get to the hotel and use WiFi.

    I’ve used the AT&T international coverage extensively, more successfully in some countries than others where they only have EDGE. You can enable and disable the service from a phone app (at least on Android) and they used to allow you to cancel at any time and prorate it based on the days and not the amount of data (mileage run to Singapore – only on for 4 days out of 30 – just a few dollars). Now, you get charged the full month once you enable it. Also, you previously had to purchase a text message package, it wasn’t expensive, but it was just more things to remember when you got on the plane. It appears from your post that they changed it to include messaging.

    One word of caution if you switch to a pay-by-the-chunk international data service with your iPhone. When my wife was touring Europe with her new iPhone, as she hit each city, what I assume was location based services was kicking in and ran her data up to 100MB/city. Eventually we figured out how to turn it off (I’m an Android guy) and the usage was more reasonable. Apparently iOS7 and above now allows you to see which apps are using what data so you can be more targeted in what you disable.

    While shifting back to T-Mobile for their international service is tempting, I’ve been happier with AT&T and hoping that competition will force them to provide an international plan similar to T-Mobile.


  22. I also thought I read somewhere that the “free” T-Mobile international data was 2G or 3G, but not 4G or LTE. One of the comments suggests that this may not or may no longer be true?

    Do you think it would be worth signing up for T-Mobile on an unlocked iPhone for a 1 month trip to Europe to several locations, instead of getting a local sim in each location? Sounds more convenient at least. My biggest concern again is if it is only going to run on 2G or 3G instead of 4G or LTE. Locations are in Turkey near IST, Finland a couple of locations, and Prague.

  23. Wow, what an embarrassment. I’ve been waiting for AT&T to “respond” in some way to T-Mobile’s disruption of the international data market, and if this is really their response, I guess I’ll just switch to T-Mobile now.

    This is virtually identical to what they had before: the data rates are the same. Sure, SMS is included, but SMS is a scam anyways – I don’t even care about it. And even mentioning “WiFi” is just bizarre and confusing. The ultimate question is how much am I paying per megabyte of data on average. With AT&T, it’s 25 cents. With T-Mobile, it’s something approaching zero.

  24. Just went around the globe with T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Unlimited plan. In NYC, the data was extremely fast, and i didn’t have any coverage issues, although I wasn’t in many places in the city. I did not notify T-Mobile of my trip abroad.

    Flew to Madrid and then on to Barcelona and got a welcome message when I turned off airplane mode upon landing. A second text came in reminding me that I have unlimited texting and unlimited data (albeit at ~2g speeds). Coverage was great, although of course that was dependent on the local carrier in Spain. Still, the free data was invaluable, since I used Google Maps, Google Translate, and Field Trip quite a bit. Transit info was particularly useful.

    Arrived in Qatar, got the same welcome message and service. Ditto for Hong Kong (where Google Maps and data was even more helpful for subway info). Ditto for Bali, where the cheap voice calling helped me when I needed to call the AAdvantage desk multiple times to make changes to my Oneworld Explorer Award at the last minute. Skype failed me, so the $.20/min for voice wasn’t prohibitive.

    Would ATT’s plan have been useful for me? Sure. But at a helluva premium.
    – “Unlimited Wifi” doesn’t mean a thing. It’s like saying “Unlimited Oxygen”.
    – 120MB for maps and picture uploads wouldn’t have been enough for my 2-week trip. Unlimited on T-Mobile, even at slower speeds, was still enough for me to go over 120MB.
    – $1/min for talk? Seriously? In 2014? How is that a “deal”? $.20 for T-Mobile is a no-brainer here.
    – $30 for the cheapest plan. Free on T-Mobile. I would have needed to get the $60 plan actually, while *still* paying an extra $.30/min for my calls to the AAdvantage desk over what T-Mobile would charge.

    There’s not even a comparison. ATT’s “new” plan is hardly better than their old plan, which itself was an insult to their customers. If T-Mobile works for your domestic travel (my travel is almost exclusively to cities by air, thus places with great T-Mobile coverage), and you travel internationally and don’t want to pay more than you have to, then T-Mobile is easily the better choice IMHO.

  25. @Daniel – used my new TMo service in 5 different European countries. It was Edge but I was pretty happy with it. Worked for email, basic web browsing, Instagram, maps, twitter, etc. Had no problem uploading Instagram photos or checking my feed. Service was good enough that I was able to rely on Maps and not have to look for directions before I left somewhere. Only caveat is that some of the networks seemed to drain my battery more than others, so I would switch my phone to flight mode sometimes.

  26. I was in Europe recently with some friends who all had T-Mobile. (I have AT&T). The data, while free for my TM friends, was pretty slow. And they all ended up buying faster data plans out of frustration. I don’t remember what they cost, but think it was a little cheaper than what I was paying through AT&T, but not much.

  27. @Mika Pyyhkala – I used TMo in IST and it worked really well. I didn’t stream video or anything, but Maps, Translate, Instagram, Feedly, Email, web browsing, etc. all worked well enough for my purposes. I have an unlocked phone and could buy local SIMs, but I was moving around to a bunch of different countries and it was nice to just not have to worry about how I was going to get my phone to work. Powered on, got a text from TMo within 3 minutes noting I was in a new country, that’s it.

  28. We have T-Mobile for years and have watched them improve service in our neighborhood from virtually no bars to LTE ! My dad was recently in China and got 3G data everywhere for free! It was fast enough to use VoIP calling on Line. The 2g speed seems more like a minimum speed you can get and the speed just varies depending on their local roaming partner. You can pay for faster 4g but I would wait until you are in country to test. They do offer in home booster towers for free with a $25 deposit. So if the coverage works everywhere except your house this solves the problem. I was at Metlife stadium once when USC was playing Rutgers and there was a storm delay. My buddy was on ATT and I was on T-Mobile. He had full bars but no data was coming through while I was on 4g surfing the web! It’s very strange but T-Mobile has the best network in NY. Only time I get horrible speeds is in the sticks but they are in the process of converting those towers to 4g. The best thing about T-Mobile is if you bring your phone or if your phone is off contract your bill goes down unlike the other carriers where you are paying a subsidized price for your phone. The only contract you have with them is if you choose the monthly payment option for the phone. I love my Nexus 5 on T-Mobile. Top shelf phone for $350 off contract and LTE speeds everywhere in LA and cheapest plan around. They also have a plan for LTE enabled tablets for $10 and you get the same amount of data for the tablet as your phone except if you have the unlimited data plan then you are capped at 5gb. Still better than any of their competitors. Last year they had a promo where you could get LTE tablets for the price of WiFi tablets so I bought the LTE iPad Air. Pretty awesome!

  29. I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile earlier this year. The best decision I ever made! I’m saving about $900 a year in cell phone bills because I travel abroad so much.
    This new AT&T plan is like their old plans – you end up paying a lot extra for not a whole lot of data. My bill is now consistently $92 ($50 for unlimited talk domestically, $30 for unlimited text and data internationally, plus taxes)
    Did I mention it includes 5 GB of tethering at no additional charge???? That’s right!
    Also, calls on the T-Mobile plan are only 20 cents a minute when you’re outside the US – not $1 a minute, or $1.29 like on AT&T – this makes such a difference? It’s ok now to talk to somebody on my cell for 10 minutes while I’m in Europe — rather than paying $12.90, it’s just $2.

    T-Mobile gets you if you call a foreign country from the United States — that’ll be really expensive (more than AT&T charges you)… there’s an addon to get unlimited calls to foreign land lines and cell phones for $15 a month, if you need that sort of thing.
    Reception: to be honest AT&T’s reception and data speeds were never that great for me.
    Overall I find the T-Mobile’s LTE to be a lot faster (less congested), where it’s available. Reception is worse inside buildings but generally great in cities. If you’re traveling in the middle of nowhere, then you’ll have a lot of trouble and T-Mobile is not for you.
    Also, that unlimited data abroad? I think it is speed-restricted, even if it says “4G” or “LTE” or “3G” it is always the same slow-ish speed for me. That’s ok though, at least I never pay overage!

    T-mobile paid my AT&T early termination fee. It’s a convoluted process but I got the $185 back.

  30. I have had tmo for about 1 year now and pay $110 for 5 phones, 3 of which have unlimmited LTE after tax and my corp discount(23%). I live in NYC and go to DC,Philly, Miami, Portland, LA for work and every time downtown get speeds of 20-40Mbps. I have never been throttled. I do more than 100GB per month since I tether from my phone(so do the other 2 LTE lines).

    I also used a hacked patch from xdadevelopers on unlocking the 3g speeds when roaming(not possible on 4g or lte yet) and have gotten the following speeds internationally(no extra fees):
    Canada: 3Mbps
    Argentina: 1.5-2Mbps
    Brazil: 2.0-2.5Mbps
    China: 3Mbps – 5Mbps
    Turkey: 1Mbps – 1.8Mbps
    Hong Kong: 4Mbps+
    Thailand: 2.5Mbps
    Italy: 3-4Mbps

    I have been super happy with them and plan to stay with them for a long time. I just hope that the hackers at xda can have a patch for LTE and 4G soon. 🙂

  31. I switched from AT+T about ten months ago, when three months of bills totalled more than $1000 (for the odd trip to Canada). I’m with Verizon now, and have a great plan that costs about $75 a month, with an additional $20/100mb of data when I travel abroad. I’m really pleased with them…

  32. “T-Mobile’s free international data is Edge, which is the 2G network I believe. Can someone comment on to it’s usefulness.”

    T-Mobile guarantees 2G data speeds internationally. They quite often deliver 3G, which has been my experience this year in London, Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Macau.

    Underpromise and overdeliver is the way you would want it.

    That being said, their coverage outside of major metro areas in the USA is horrible. I honestly had a better cell phone signal in Northern Thailand outside of Chiang Mai than in Northern California outside of Reno when I was near Lake Tahoe and Lassen Peak National Park last month. Friends with Verizon were getting 4 bars of LTE while I was getting 1 bar of GPRS.

    That being said, I’m pretty sure Lucky is never more than 50 miles away from a Hyatt at any time… 😉

  33. Last summer I paid $100 for what is essentially the new $30 Passport plan. I believe it was $30 for the data, $30 for calls and $40 for texting…..or something like that. So I believe the folks that say nothing has changed are mistaken. This is a MUCH better deal from AT&T.

  34. I echo the other comments that have said T-Mobile is fine in cities but coverage gets dicey off the beaten path. I’ve used T-mobile for years and this has always been my experience. If you stick mostly to cities in the U.S. I think you’d be fine. Their international service seems like a no-brainer for someone who travels as much as you do.

  35. I switched to T-Mobile recently because I have a 10 week international trip coming up and thought it would be great not having to get local SIMS everywhere I go. What a disaster it has been. I am in San Francisco and the coverage in my area is awful. I can only use my phone inside if I lean against the window in one of our bedrooms. Even when I go walking I often have no coverage. I was recently in Hawaii and experienced the same poor coverage. As soon as I get back from my trip I was giving T Mobile the boot.

    We have used ATT travel plan in the past. Biggest problem is getting them to stop charging when you get back. I can’t believe how many hours of my life have been spent dealing with ATT billing department trying to rectify their muck ups.

  36. So, once again lots of confusion going on here.

    As to the WIFI that is being offered now as UNLIMITED , this was a package that AT&T started offering over a year ago when they dramatically lowered international DATA packages. Historically, when one bought a data package you also got 1GB of WIFI access. It has NOTHING to do with whether or not they let you connect to WIFI (like open wifi, you’re friends house in Bilbao or anything else for that matter) this is for what would normally be PAID wifi, like in an airport, hotel, offices, etc. It is basically running on what would be the BOINGO network, which is also normally a paid service and can be purchased for international use for about 50$ a month normally – but here it is free. It is also enabling access to the FON network (not too popular here in the states, but quite so internationally (I actually hit about 20 of them in SA, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe last month), and this is also normally a subscription type of service. So, it IS something of value – not oxygen.

    the calling plans used to cost as well (as I noted above) but now free access starts with the 30$ plan and calls are 1$, with a higher plan it goes down to .50$. so still pretty good for everywhere calling access. Of course with WIFI and even the data plans, I’d skype before I made a call.

    Is tmobile overall cheaper? Sure, you have to have their Simple Choice plan or higher though, but these type of global coverages are free. For me, coverage on the peninsula of the bay area for t-mobile is so atrocious it’s not even usable so it’s not an option for me at all.

    As for overall data use. Like I said, I was just in SA, Bots, Zambia, Zimbabwe and London for nearly a month, and used 80MB of my 120MB data plan. Granted, one should be strategic with WIFI access, like downloading maps to google or citymaps2go, and when on cellular only getting headers to emails and not automatically downloading attachments, but I used weather, safari, google maps (it’s actually pretty darn efficient as long as you don’t download the sat maps data), skyping, etc, and only used the 80MB..So, it can easily be done.

    I really wish apple would implement a global setting change to switch between all the settings I use when I travel internationally with the phone, and the basically wide open settings I use when I’m in the USA.

  37. After this post, decided to finally bite the bullet and switch. I travel way too much to play the SIM card game and I’m sick of ATTs fees.

    T-Mobile is giving me $355 for my iPhone 5S and $350 for repayment of early termination fee. Plus I got the iPhone 6 for pennies on the dollar.

    Couldn’t be happier.

  38. T-Mo’s global data is on 3G (HSPA+ networks, where available) but they cap the speed at 128KBps. I understand that for most of the past year since they introduced this it wasn’t always locked down that slow on every network in every country where the free data applies. Seems they’re doing better at that now, though YMMV.

    For email and messaging apps, even text-based twitter, that slow speed is fine. It also works fine for turn-by-turn navigation but only after it finishes the painfully slow download. Anything more, if you’re at all like me, you’ll find the slow speed far too frustrating for anything involving multimedia.

    Gone are the days of Verizon having a $65 unlimited global roaming plan for the literally four phones they had with GSM radios – two of which were Blackberry devices. I used to turn that on and off for each trip. Had I known, I’d have kept that $65 plan active – you got to keep it and be grandfathered in if you never deactivated it, much like unlimited data plans domestically.

  39. I work with 2 phones constantly, work iphone is on AT&T and personal is an android on T-Mobile, and my take is for someone who travels internationally often without a work expense account T-Mobile is the way to go. The few times you are in poor T-mobile coverage in the US are outweighed by their simple global plans and their innovation in both plans and tech like WiFi calling. I lived in South Africa for 8 months and spoke to people in the US and texted globally just as normal without incurring a single roaming charge. The combination of the global internet plan and the Wi-Fi calling means you can keep operating as usual. The 2G internet limitation is tolerable for basic functions like maps, messaging, social media, and the plethora of WiFi access when travelling gives the high speed for data hungry usage. When you then throw in the simple pricing and the lack of device restriction it is really a no brainer.

    By the way, a benefit of the failed merger is that AT&T had to transfer some highly desirable spectrum to T-Mobile that improved their rural coverage and also expanded the roaming of T-Mobile devices on AT&T US network.

    Downside of T-Mobile is the fact that the VZW and AT&T duopoly means T-Mobile 3G HSPA and 4G LTE are on unique frequencies that limit device compatibility, meaning you cannot always use global phones on the US network or that T-Mobile phones may not be able to access foreign high speed networks even with local sims. This issue seems to be less important with high end and new generation phones that are now including chipsets/modems that cover almost all frequencies (eg Iphone 6, select SGS5)

    My recommendation to travellers, people who don’t like even slightest of inconvenience with money to burn can stick with AT&T and their overly expensive plans, while for everyone else should go T-mobile route. For Amex Plat holders, you can leverage that Boingo benefit with T-Mobile WiFi calling.

  40. This is a HUGE scam because they got rid of prorating. It used to be for 1/4 of a month you paid $30 (25% of $120) and got 200MB. Now for $30 you only get 120MB.

    The prices JUST DOUBLED for data.

  41. All things considered: how many days a year are you still in the U.S.? If that’s low enough, switch immediately. If not, consider where you are staying. From your reports it doesn’t seem like you’ll be visiting many farm houses in the middle of Idaho 😉

  42. @stvr honestly, I’ve been using the international data plans on AT&T for over 2 years now and have not had the experience at all that it was prorated. 10 days, was 30$, 30 days was 30$. I think they actually moved to that since what would happen was people would take it for 10 days, try and get a pro-rated fee of say 10$, but not realize that in the end they would also get a pro-rated AMOUNT of data (say 40MB not 120MB) and then get upset when they went over, etc.

  43. I’ve only just switched from AT&T to T-Mobile, after being burned on excess charges on a recent trip to Asia. So far I’m really liking T-Mobile. Coverage in AUS seems on par with AT&T. One huge advantage (for now) with TMo is they support Wifi calling, which is working very well. My house has marginal coverage from all carriers – due to topography. With AT&T, I had to use a Microcell to fix. Now, since all our phones are iPhones that support Wifi calling, no booster required!

    Can’t wait to use it abroad on my next trip!

  44. I live in Portland, OR and Tmobile in the city is just fine, even good. Others on my family plan live in LA and Chicago and they have had the same experience. Road trips outside the city and rural coverage is much worse, but I spend 99% of my time in big cities.

    And it feels so good to have a carrier that seems to give a rip about their customers. The fact that I don’t have a plan that I’m locked into, that I know exactly how much of my monthly payment goes to pay off my iPhone ($27) and that when it is paid off this fee drops off my monthly bill, and that this international plan (despite EDGE speeds) really does just work feels really awesome.

    I’ve used the International plan in Canada, Europe, Dubai, and Ghana and it has worked perfectly every time. I couldn’t watch movies on it (but I’m traveling so don’t ever need to) but I can surf the web, look up directions on google maps, and text folks just fine. It has been quite awesome, to say the least.

    And I don’t have this sense that I’m gonna get screwed by Tmobile whenever they feel like it, cause all they’ve done is make their plans better and better, for less and less. Pretty cool example of disruption.

  45. I just switched (back) to T-Mobile from AT&T and am very happy with the coverage. I really haven’t experienced anywhere where it was worse than AT&T; on the contrary at a number of places I visit often, it’s better (stronger/faster) than AT&T. Their LTE is fast! At home, I’m getting >55M down, which is often faster than my cable!

    I’d been a long time TMob person, since the voicestream days, and only switched to AT&T in 2008 because of the iPhone; now I’m quite happy to be back, especially since my last month’s AT&T bill was $280 due to my international travel. From here on out, my tmob is going to be $60 every month, even with my international travel!

    BTW, the AT&T international WIFI is rubbish! I was in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and England just recently, and without exception, Boingo worked much better (thanks @Lucky for the tip on this freebie from the AMEX platinum card!)

  46. One caveat to my earlier positive comments. I still haven’t completed my whole trade-in and ETF refund process with Tmo, and have run into a definite snag there. Their system is not processing my trade-in. It’s some kind of software or data error, but it’s been going on for 17 days.

    T-Mobile reps seem well-trained to appear genuinely interested in solving the customer problems, but their escalation processes do not appear to give even supervisors authority to manually override systems for this kind of glitch.

    So, while I’m very happy with the T-Mo *Un-carrier Simple Choice idea*, and my experience with their network so far, it’s still possible that I’ll have to cancel my service if they don’t get my trade-in/ETF glitch resolved.

    Which would be a real pity.

  47. Hey Ben- LOL I went through *exactly* the same thought process you did re switching to T-Mobile. FWIW T Mobile has a free “test drive” option where they give you a phone free for a week… might be interesting to do that, play with it domestically and then (most importantly) take it on a weekend somewhere int’l and see how it works for you.

    One thing I noticed is you get slow data speeds on the T-M free int’l roaming… not 3G speeds and definitely not LTE. (I think the way it works is you get some data at a higher speed then it DRAMATICALLY slows down after you’ve used that allotment. So imagine being somewhere international and all of the sudden, using data on your phone slows to a crawl and you can’t fix or change it… sounds like a nightmare to me.)

    Now that I’ve seen this new Passport plan, I’m just going to stay with AT&T and go with this. I’m happy with this option.


  48. p.s. since I had about $150 in int’l data plans/roaming/blah blah last month (2 weeks in Europe and another week in Asia!). So I just called AT&T and said “hey, you guys just announced this new $30 plan which would have totally covered me for the entire month… so can you retroactively give me that deal for September?” –they couldn’t, BUT they did give me a $75 credit. Not bad for a 6 minute phone call. 😉 SOOO yeah might be worth the call if, like me, you’ve racked up some int’l charges recently…

  49. @Eric M,

    You seem to be a bit unclear on how T-Mobile’s international data works. If you want higher speed data, you can always pay extra for it. The slower “default” international data is limited to 128kbps. This would be what most would consider “2g-like”. However, if you want faster (ie full 3g speeds on the roaming partner’s network) you can pay extra, per their FAQ:

    Will I get the same high-speed network experience now internationally, as I do here at home in the U.S.?
    No. Customers will have unlimited web speeds great for web browsing and e-mail, social networking and occasional use of certain features like GPS/maps. Some applications like streaming music or video will be more difficult than when on T-Mobile’s domestic network. However, higher-speed data passes will be available for purchase when you are abroad:

    Single day pass: $15 for 100MB (high speed data capped at 100MB)
    7 day pass: $25 for 200MB (high speed data capped at 200MB)
    14 day pass: $50 for 500MB (high speed data capped at 500MB)

    Note that T-Mobile’s pricing for full 3g data (which, is really unnecessary unless you’re doing heavy web browsing and trying to watch streaming videos), is still cheaper per GB than ATT’s. For the rest of us who don’t “need” faster 3g data while abroad, we pay nothing.

    Also note that when roaming abroad, there are no speed guarantees for ATT or T-Mobile’s “full-speed” 3g roaming, since that’s entirely dependent on the local roaming operator. Moreover, there’s a good chance that T-Mobile and ATT use some of the same roaming operators in numerous countries, so when paying for faster 3g data, there’s no performance benefit abroad by going with ATT over T-Mobile when comparing apples to apples.

  50. Hi Jon– hmm, right, we’re on the same page.

    AT&T’s new plans cost money and have a data cap, but they give you 3G, 4G or LTE (whatever is available on the networks where you are)– all very good speeds.

    T-Mobile offers free data but the speed is atrociously slow, unless you want to pay for higher speeds.

    For me, the AT&T plans give me enough data and it’s worth it to me for the faster speed. I travel mostly to big cities in other countries where (according to AT&T’s info) I will always have at least real 3G, often 4G and occasionally crazy-fast LTE. So I’m happy with all this.

    I want the speed on my phone/iPad when I’m trying to get something done. For other people, the free T-Mobile data at glacier-slow speeds might be just perfect, or they might want to pay for faster speed… but then that defeats the purpose of “free,” doesn’t it? 😉 Please let me know if I’m missing something here.

  51. I have an unlocked note 2, and while driving around the U’S. switched to ATT, but as soon as I’m back home in Honolulu I’ll switch back to T mob. T mob worked fine for me this summer in Bali and Taiwan. I haven’t had any problems switching back and forth. I don’t believe in contracts any more.

  52. Switched to T-Mobile at beginning of year after being with AT&T for 10+ years. Coverage has been great in Russia, Turkey, Hong Kong, Bali, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany ,and Switzerland so far. Its also fine in US urban and suburban areas although it is hit or miss in the more rural areas. Unless you spend any amount of time in the sticks, its a no brainer to make the switch. I’m saving about 35% compared to old AT&T plan.

  53. Come on Lucky, you should know you don’t need all that. Just get an Iphone and get a new sim card for every country you are in. They should make a little flip book to store sim cards in, it would be great for travelers like you who live the international first-class lifestyle. Bottom line is twenty cents a minute for international calls is very high compared to other methods available internationally.

  54. I switched to T-Mobile Simple Choice plan a couple of months ago and I am very happy about its international coverage. Upon landing in a foreign airport the automated welcome message from T-Mobile is really assuring.

    For anybody who has doubt about the quality of its international roaming, you just have to check the voice and high-speed data coverage map for your favorite destination.

    Scroll half way down the page and enter the country name, e.g., Hong Kong.
    Pick it from the list that comes up and hit CHECK RATES & COVERAGE button.
    Scroll down a bit to see its partner’s coverage map.

    It’s clear that T-Mobile is delivering much more than the 2G international roaming that it promised.

  55. I also switched from AT&T to T-Mobile and couldn’t be happier. Data coverage (and tethering !) has been 3G in the UK, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands. More than adequate for my needs. The $.20 per minute call rate is a bit more expensive than switching SIM cards but so much more convenient since anyone can reach me on my US number. Coverage in Houston has been as good (sometimes better) than AT&T.

    Truly works as advertised with no hidden charges!

    No brainer to switch!

  56. I live in a major metro area (Wash DC) and switched to ATT. I had T mobile and my wife had Sprint and the service was absolutely horrible for both. The problem with Tmobile was that you would have amazing reception and then walk a block and the reception would drop to no data and bad voice. Tmobile’s biggest issue is no consistent coverage, even within a metro area.

    I’m no ATT evangelist. I think their prices are too high and they are raping their customers, but from a coverage perspective you will rarely have the ongoing spotty service (if you do, use the ATT app to report it).

    The unlimited data with Tmobile sounds great…..but its unlimited because its so hard to use!

  57. I love T-Mobile. We’ve had it for 10 years ever since they were the only company that let you use foreign SIM cards. Just spent time with several T-Mobile agents and they were all bright, friendly, and helpful. So unlike my experiences with the (usually overseas) AT & T agents I’ve had to call to complain about my terrible landline and internet service. Reception here in the states has been better for me than with AT&T. Beware of comparing data speeds abroad. They use a different bandwidth and so some phones that are 3G here can’t do 3G there.

  58. What a joke of a plan!!

    You can easily pick up a SIM in all countries and get a ton of data and a local number (as opposed to an out-of-country US one) for little money. I am in Cambodia and for USD 5 I have 1.5 GB (that’s Gigabytes) of data at 4G LTE speeds plus 50 voice minutes (extra calls are 2 US cents per minute) with a handy local number.

  59. I read few of the comments from above, and would like to add mine…I swithced to T-Mobile from ATT Last yr.. after having ATT for over 10 year and I think its the best decision I have made. Like everyone says the coverage is sticky in off the map locations but in the city its amazing fast and no coverage loss. I also had similar problem with ATT no coverage in certain places. Switching to T Mobile i saved lots of money plus its simple I dont have to call the CS to change plan. This me and my family went to Brazil to see the World cup, and T-Mobile data was a life saver. Non Brazilian are not allowed to buy local sim without local ID so I used my T-Mobile. With 3g conneciton i was able to make voice call over viber to my wife locally in Brazil, also used the wifi calling to call home in the US. I was also able to do skype on 3g connection from the games.

  60. To tivoboy,
    I am about to travel to Europe using the ATT plan. I wanted to ask what iPhone 6 settings you made to ensure I only use texting and possibly the odd call? Besides using free wifi that is. I would appreciate any tips you can provide!

  61. well I Travel a lot abroad. I have a T mobile phone and an ATT phone. When I use T-Mobile it works as promised but be aware that you will not get the highest speeds abroad unless you buy a data plan. For email and messaging it’s just fine. If you are an Instagram fan… Well expect to see that wheel turning a lot. With ATT I bought a bunch of passport plans and I think they are pure scam. I’m very careful on data usage when I’m roaming internationally (all automatic functions like app refresh and location services off etc) but these plans run out of juice incredibly fast. I already complained twice with AT&T but guess what? They did not do anything about it. In conclusion, if you travel a lot abroad go with T-Mobile. The usage calculations of the AT&T passport plans are way off (to their advantage of course)

  62. I have had t mobile for almost a decade now and prior to that had ATT or Cingular at the time for a few years. I would never ever switch from Tmobile anymore. I travel extensively and my plan is always the same. No overages no fees providing you stay with the countries that are part of the plan. Last year went to the Maldives and strictly used WiFi and whatSapp to make calls I’ve WiFi and also facebook for video calls. No extra caharges. When in Dubai just use the tmobile network and data comes in at 3g. It’s not ideal bit it’s free or included in plan. Same thing in Europe. Data in 3g and included eventhough it says it’s only supposed to be 2g it actually is 3g. And I have never received an overage charge. I have such a grandfathered plan that I only pay $95 for everything unlimited and can call from US, Canada and Mexico to 70 different countries and their cell phones as well with no xtra overages. Data in Canada and Mexico is 4G LTE where available all included as well. I have never had a problem with TMOBILE as far as coverage in the US. There is always a network it will pick up and for the remote instance there isn’t there is always WiFi calling on any WiFi connection. Works well as well. So in short if you travel alot and hate extra charges swith to Tmobile and you will be glad you did.

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