Did Sprint Just Surpass T-Mobile When It Comes To International Data?

Filed Under: Travel Technology

Staying connected while abroad without getting a separate SIM card keeps getting easier thanks to the number of great plans available through cell phone providers. For frequent international travelers, there seem to be two options that are most popular:


I love T-Mobile, and am so happy I made the switch from AT&T last year. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it has been life changing, given that I can tether off my phone and also have data when traveling internationally. Of the bigger carriers I think T-Mobile has been doing the most innovating, though it also needs to be pointed out that other cell phone providers are narrowing the gap.

Not only that, but Sprint may just have caught up, if not surpassed, T-Mobile. This week Sprint announced their new Global Roaming Plan. Sprint users now get free data at up to 2G speeds, free texting, and calls at 20 cents per minute, in 165 countries. This is very similar to T-Mobile’s international plan, except T-Mobile roaming is only available in 145 countries, so Sprint has 20 more countries on the list.

On top of that, Sprint is offering a reasonably priced option to upgrade your data internationally. In most countries, Sprint users can pay $5 per day or $25 per week to upgrade to LTE high-speed data when traveling. This new feature can be activated directly on your smartphone in a few clicks, so this isn’t something that needs to be done in advance.

Here’s the chart that Sprint provides in their press release with a comparison of what they offer, compared to their competitors:

68410-2017 - Sprint Global Roaming Enhancements Chart

T-Mobile also has an updated international plan, called T-Mobile ONE Plus. It costs an extra $25 per line per month, and gets you international data at 256kbps internationally, up to 3G speeds. Many frequent international travelers will find this worthwhile, though 3G still isn’t LTE, like what Sprint is offering.

Bottom line

Sprint’s new international data plan is compelling. On the most basic level, they’re offering unlimited data internationally in 20 more countries than T-Mobile is. But I actually think their option to upgrade to LTE speeds could be a good value as well, given how slow 2G is. I’m curious to see how T-Mobile responds.

What do you make of Sprint’s new international plan?

(Tip of the hat to @RoamingRei)

  1. Old news, Sprint has offered this for a while. FWIW I used this package recently in France last year and had unlimited data for a week for free. In addition I was connected to 3G/4G the entire time, NOT the 2G as advertised. Total cost = $0

    Very compelling for those who travel a lot but I find Sprint service to be poor in more rural areas compared to the larger carriers.

  2. @ DB — Hmmm, not a Sprint customer, so sorry if it’s old news. Any clue what part of the press release was supposedly new, then?

  3. I’ve been with Verizon for a little over a year. Presently have a S7 Edge that I also bought with the Verizon contract a year ago.

    Is it possible to switch over to TMobile now or do I need to wait for my 2 year contract to end?

  4. This is absolutely not “old news”. Shopped around just two months ago and international use was my top priority. Sprint had nothing like this at the time.

  5. @steve – yes you should be able to. You will likely need to pay a fee but nowadays carriers are reimbursing for those fees. In other words t mobile should reimburse you for any fees incurred. I would check with them. I agree with Ben. T mobile has been fabulous.

  6. Sadly Sprint truly is bottom of the barrel when it comes to domestic coverage and performance. Truly, it is utter crap. (coming from someone who has tried all four)

  7. Google’s Project Fi is actually pretty simple: $20 per month flat fee for calling and texting and $10 per gigabyte for data. Works in 140 countries. In the USA, Project Fi connects you to T-Mobile, Sprint, or US Cellular’s networks, whichever one gives you the best signal. For someone who is usually on WiFi and doesn’t use a lot of data, this is great deal. I’m averaging under $30 per month for the last four months and that includes a month in Bali. The only “downside” is that you have to use a Google branded phone, i.e. a Pixel or Nexus. Coming from an iPhone to a Pixel the only thing I miss is iMessage.

  8. Strange that they are just announcing this now as this was absolutely in effect a few months ago. Maybe they just wanted to see how well it worked before advertising/announcing it as such?

  9. Sprint does now offer the cheapest high speed paid per day price. Bear in mind that if you don’t pay the daily fee the free offering is only 64k or less than half the speed of the T-Mobile free offering. That’s not very game changing.

  10. None of these plans come close to what Project Fi has to offer. Project Fi will get Sprint and T-Mobile out of business soon…

  11. Sprint also has their Open World plan (and you can switch your phone between Global Roaming and Open World) that offers free 3/4G data in the Americas. It’s worked well for me in Guatemala, Mexico, and Barbados.

  12. @ Jackie, if I could use my Samsung with Google Fi, I would switch in a second. But I have no intention of giving up my S7 Edge for a Nexus. Never will happen.

  13. T-Mobile has a one plus Option that’s only 5$. Includes :
    10GB Mobile Hotspot
    Unlimited Gogo all flight long from your device. American / Alaska/ VirginAmerica / Delta (international flights free too)
    HD video
    2X speed data when roaming
    Name Caller ID
    Voicemail to Text

    Pretty good for $5

  14. @Steve
    Not sure how the dialer works on Android phones but even if you cannot assign an app to the dialer, you could still use Google Hangouts to take/make phone calls and texting. That is what I do now with my iPhone and Google Fi.

  15. @Jason-
    I’ve been using my iPhone 6s on google fi with no problems. You just need to activate the sim on a nexus, and there’s a setting that needs changing on the iPhone (easy to find with a quick google search).

  16. NOT OLD NEWS. If DB got 3G/4G it was likely as a response to T-Mobile who had teaser speeds of 4G for several months last year. My son-in-law went to Europe with his sprint phone and only got 2G speed. For Europe, T-Mobile is far better in terms of reliability as it is a European (German) company and it is on the GSM frequency most common in Europe while Sprint uses CDMA. Yes the SIM card does allow it to access GSM networks but my son-in-law’s was not always flawless

  17. I’m using t-mobile in Thailand right now and it’s fine. Can use google maps easily and mobile safari though not really video. Switches between 3G and LTE.

    If you really want 4G/LTE for a week trip you’re better off just getting a tourist SIM in most countries…likely more economical than $25 and will be more reliable.

  18. Google Fi just seems too complicated for people who don’t want to use a Nexus phone. I like simple and straightforward.

  19. I just returned from Paris and Portugal and again used by T-Mobile account with no further charges. It worked flawlessly — and often moved up to quicker date. It also is great (and free!) to make a wifi phone call. (Ironically, I sometimes have problems with T-mobile a few hrs from home where it goes into a T-mobile dead zone, switches briefly to AT&T and then tells me I have used up my roaming, which I never knew I had at all!)

  20. Don’t forget that Project Fi has 4G/LTE worldwide included at no additional charge! Fi does seem complicated at first, but it’s actually really simple.

    If anyone is interested in joining, here is my referral code that will save you $20 – https://g.co/fi/r/84E1CC

  21. Only if Sprint had a decent coverage in the US. It is interesting that the worst carriers for the US market are the ones offering these international packages. Why? Seriously, you may survive with TMobile or Sprint in big metro areas but if you go outside any big city in the US you have to have either ATT or Verizon if you want cell phone coverage. Also, which are the 20 countries that Sprint offers that are not covered by TMobile?

  22. Not sure exactly what has changed but Sprint Global Roaming as you see it described above was 1000% available for customers as early as last November. I know if because I called up to ask about options for my trip back then, and they told me to sign up on sprint.com with one click…all the literature was there already. As someone mentioned above Sprint Open World is another option, which was also around back then as well.

    Maybe there are some minor changes outlined above but from what I can tell at first glance it seems pretty much identical to what I saw last year.

  23. @steve. I work for TMobile and I can tell you we make switching VERY easy. We have a carrier freedom policy that allows you to trade in your Verizon phone to a local T-Mobile store when you start service and we will pay the remaining balance of your phone in additional to any early termination fees. Up to $649 per line !!

    Great day to get the S8. Make sure you get the 5$ one plus add on I mentioned early. It’s a steal !

  24. @ Ryan, but if I trade in my phone, doesn’t that mean I have to buy a new phone outright with TMobile? That would be a big expense.

  25. @Jason MacLeod and @meegabroad

    Like @meegabroad says, you absolutely can use your iPhone on Project Fi. I’m likewise using an unlocked iPhone 6s that I had with AT&T for 2 years. When the iPhone 8 comes out I’ll look into buying an unlocked iPhone 7.

    Four issues to be aware of that some have already hinted at:
    1. You *do* need to activate the Project Fi SIM in an authorized device…like a Nexus 6 or Pixel. This isn’t hard as most people know at least 1 friend or family member that have an authorized device. Not a big deal.
    2. You *will*have to change some carrier settings in the phone itself. There are OODLES of blogs that tell/show you how to do it, though, so only the illiterate should be worried. And if you somehow screw it up, you can always restore to factory settings and start over.
    3. You will be limited to T-Mobile in the US as iPhones do not have dual antennas like most (all?) Android phones so there’s no switching between Sprint and T-Mobile, nor can you do internet-to-cellular handoffs. I live in both SD and SF and have experienced minimal issues. Those in more rural areas may not want to try this, though.
    4. Group messages to Android *and* iPhone users will not function properly. To my knowledge there’s no workaround for that yet. Additionally, SMS/texts to Android users will come with a string of random characters at the end that can be ignored but look strange. Plus, you can’t do multimedia messages to Android users.

    I’m technically savvy as I’m a telecommunications engineer so none of this is remotely daunting. And I know mostly iPhone users so the few Android-related issues aren’t a huge bother. The major upside is I’m an Apple user for all my products, both hardware and software and online, so this allowed me to stay seamlessly connected while getting off of that shit-tastic AT&T.

    My bill is roughly $70-80 month and I use about 6 GB on my phone on average. Plus I travel internationally about 6-7 times a year for extended periods during which I’m on my phone constantly. Having compared very similar trips with my AT&T plan and my Google plan, I saved about $300 as AT&T simply doesn’t have good rates for international service. Seriously, fuck AT&T.

    As far as service overseas, I’ve used it on literally every continent except Antarctica and have had 3G or better everywhere, with associated data rates. It’s perfect for phone calls, Google Maps, and web surfing. I’m a total Project Fi fanboy…I admit it.

  26. I’ve been a fan of Sprint’s Open World plan, but it looks like they are no longer offering it. That was a better option for the Americas, since you got free calls/texts and 1GB of 3G data. The Global Roaming option might be better for the rest of the world since Open World was only free texting, $30/GB data, and $0.20/min calls.

    But a question on Project Wi-Fi, what speeds are people actually seeing outside the US?

  27. Used Sprint’s free international global roaming in Switzerland and London last two weeks. Loved it.

    2g is slow but when you download maps and stuff then you dont need super fast connection any more..making it perfect for getting directions looking up near by places etc etc.

    I also had offline city guides from tripadvisor but that has really gone down hill. Kept freezin up and totally useless.

  28. Sprint global roaming is limited to a completely unusable 64 Kbps unless you pay the daily or weekly rate. Do not fall for this nonsense.

  29. @Lucky – Just FYI, ANY carrier with whom you have a specific data package (e.g. 5 GB/month) is legally required to allow you to tether other devices to your cell phone for no additional charge. Only unlimited plans are allowed to charge. Theory is that you purchased X data, you’re allowed to use X data.

  30. I use a German Vodafone plan and for 60 € per month they waive all roaming charges in 70+ countries or so (basically, the whole world). Ok, there are some limits, like only for phone calls up to 500 minutes per day or so, but nothing any normal person would ever reach. That means I can call, text and use 4G basically everywhere without any additional cost. I use my regular free data, which in my case is 6 GB per month. It’s fantastic for international travelers, though I think you might need a registered business in Germany as the offer limited to business customers.

  31. Switched from AT&T to T-Mobile a few months ago. Great when I’m traveling internationally. Awful here in the States. In Texas, at least, the coverage map has a lot of holes. Hadn’t seen “No Service” on my iPhone in over 5 years; now it’s a regular occurrence.

    Very sorry I made the jump.

  32. Sprint has been offering this plan since at least before December 2015 when I added it to my account. Maybe they just added more countries, or maybe the $5/day LTE option is new, but they have had unlimited 2G data and texts + $.20/min calls for a long time now (at least in Europe).

  33. Tim A, I hear you. I switched from Verizon to T-Mobile because I was tired of the Verizon data overages on a monthly basis. In my experience, T-Mobile, domestically, is nearly unusable. Last week I was in the B terminal Delta club in there had to be 120 people using their phones and I found myself having to walk around the club to get a signal so that the party on the other end could hear me for more than 30 seconds. Now that the vast majority of my travel is US domestic, I’m switching back to Verizon now that they have the unlimited plan.

  34. I was using T-mobile which certainly was superior to Sprint which I had for years and I switched to Google Fi 3 months ago and it is great. My cell phone bill dropped from $100+ to under $40. The call quality and coverage is great. Its international service has been vastly superior to T-mobile or Sprint. I am very pleased with my google phone coming from a Samsung Note phone phone. The battery life is amazing. I would urge anyone considering switching carriers to consider Google Fi.

  35. Folks I have Sprint so I want to clarify a few things.

    1) Before they unveiled Global Roaming this week, they had two plans:
    a) Sprint Open World – that got you 1GB of high speed (3G) each time you traveled to most countries in North and South America plus free texting and unlimited texting
    b) Spring Value Roaming – that got you very low speed (1G) data in a larger number of countries and the same free texting and 20 cent phone calls

    Both required you to OPT in or your got no roaming or charged the rates that would make you want to keep your phone off.

    Spring Global Roaming does not require an opt in, so they are now on par with T-Mobile which did not require an opt in. They also now advertise 2G speeds instead of 1G. When I travelled in Asia, I found the speeds of Spring roaming to be okay for basic stuff you just had to be very patient. If they doubled the speeds great. In Latin America Sprint roams on a partner of their parent company, Movistar and they are the WORST cell phone provider in most countries so while 3G is great it’s only if you are in a big city, in rural areas you have a 1G signal if any at at all.

    Finally, if you do travel with your Sprint phone my advice is outside of the USA (and maybe Mexico where CDMA is still used), immediately set your phone to GSM only mode if possible. That improved my real world reception enormously.

    Happy Travels!

  36. I really like Verizon’s offering … you get your domestic allowance including voice calls for a fairly reasonable $10/day and data is high speed.

  37. I have used Tmobile internationally over the last couple of years and while one shudders to think of having to use your flagship phone on 2G speeds, my travel experience (SE Asia–no service in Vietnam though, Canada, several places in Europe) was NOT one of waiting and waiting for things to load. It was definitely tolerable speeds (seemed like 3G or 4G, but not LTE), and given that I have no extra charges when I returned stateside, I definitely did not feel like complaining.

    As for domestic use, I have no complaints either for Tmobile. My home areas have great coverage, and my travels to various spots in FL, greater Boston, Chicago and surrounding areas, and greater San Francisco areas have been fine. Granted, I don’t spend much time in rural or sparsely populated areas, and when I do it is mostly as a pass-through on the highways (where Tmo seems to concentrate their coverage for the less densely populated areas).

  38. If anyone is considering this, AA sent me an email the other day for a 25k mile bonus for switching to Sprint. So be sure to get that.

  39. @steve The phone is not really a big expense IF:

    *you were paying monthly payments for a phone at Sprint anyway.
    *You can use the money we give you for your phone (If it was paid off) to use towards another phone.

  40. Ummm not quite @Arlington Traveler. 1G is analog. Sprint has had free 2G Global Roaming for awhile now. The NEW part is the $5/$25 addon price across all countries. It used to be more expensive depending on what country you were roaming in. Also, as you correctly stated, the plan is automatically included instead of having to check a box on the website or call in.

  41. This is actually a downgrade from what was there for South America. Sprint used to give you 1 GB of free high speed roaming at no charge, now it costs.

  42. @Panda, I do not disagree with you that that 1G is dead in most places. However, with Sprint all your data gets routed through a server in the USA which is how they throttle your data and yes they used to advertise 1G speeds. Now, you are correct the add on is cheaper but having used 3G in Latin America even that was not real 3G because everything got routed through the same server in the USA slowing down data. One other caveat, if you have the unlimited plan, your data in Canada and Mexico is unlimited now, whereas before I think you were limited to 1GB, now you have unlimited high speed data.

  43. I don’t even bother with roaming plans, I find it cheaper and more convenient to get a local SIM card, can get unlimited 3g/4g data for as little as $10 in some countries.

  44. I was curious what extra countries Sprint covers over TMobile and I had too much time on my hands today. I counted 30 total but a few of these are technically territories. Doesn’t seem like a huge value-add to me. See Sprint’s extra countries/territories below:

    Congo, Dem. Rep. of
    Marie Galante
    Northern Mariana Islands
    Palestinian Territories
    Papua New Guinea
    Sint Eustatius

  45. @ Aaron Ha, I was half way through this then got bored – thanks!

    Seems like both have ones the other doesn’t list, rather than Sprint just having have extra. T-Mobile lists Bosnia & Christmas Island, but Sprint do not name either.

    But also, Sprint lists “United Kingdom” in addition to England/Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland. There may be other examples of such duplication, so they’re certainly double counting, at least by 1.

  46. The “big” news with Sprint is that they expanded their international coverage (at a competitive rate) to more countries. Prior to this announcement, China was a big empty spot, but now it’s covered.

    About a year and a half ago I used Sprint/Movistar and it was nice to not have to worry about a bill and I still got 1GB of 3G and in one week I used nearly 600 MB for email and FB and the like at decent speeds in Costa Rica and Panama and I generally had 3 bars.

    Now this plan is gone (or at least if you have it you can keep it but once it’s off your account, it’s gone for good) and calls will now cost $.20 and it looks like data is not 3G.

    One sweet spot that is rarely mentioned with Sprint. Japan roaming is available for $5/month and it gets you zero rated 3G data, calls and text while on Softbank. After all Softbank owns 80% of Sprint. You have to call/chat to get this added. I did this 2 years ago and had little problem doing Periscope. 800 MB for $5 can’t be beat!

  47. Sounds good on paper, but my experience with Sprint is quite poor internationally. My company switched us from AT&T to Sprint. When trying to use my phone in two different countries, my Sprint phone would take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to find service. It was not good at all at switching networks either. My T-Mobile phone however would always find service almost immediately and worked without a hitch. Sprint would eventually find service, but seemed to be massively throttled. Most of the time it was on Edge. T-Mobile, even throttled has never let me down anywhere I’ve traveled. Google maps, Uber, email, text/iMessage/Whatsapp…all work without a problem. On Sprint, it seemed that it was constantly trying to negotiate.

    This is of course on top of Sprint’s ‘ancient’ CDMA technology which has terrible calling features (can’t merge calls, add calls, drop calls, and of course, no simultaneous voice and data).

    I’ve used them both and Sprint is no where near T-Mobile’s offering both domestically and internationally.

    AT&T will rob you blind for international use. You’ll get full speeds, but in the caribbean and Central America, most carriers are really slow anyway so why pay more? T-Mobile is the way to go.

  48. DB – Being connected to the 3G network doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting 3G speeds. It can easily be restricted to 2G speeds at the network level. Did you test it to verify how fast it was?

  49. @Aaron,

    For the list of countries, you name the Azores as not being on T-Mobile’s list. This is correct, but it’s covered under Portugal.
    Seems like an oversight, as they otherwise have duplicate entries for territories like that (like Greenland or Reunion on your list), but the Portugal map very clearly shows coverage for the Azores

  50. Thanks Lucky, We are retired and don’t have the need to jump on Sprint’ hot deal. We are with T-Mobile. Love Simple Global. We use it for travel related biz and calls to relatives in Germany and Spain. It was a hoot to call from India in Sept 2015. Liked your great little graphic spread sheet comparing plans. When we first got with T-Mobile was because of this service; were attracted to use it/drop it/sign up again later – all with no penalty. Now we used the plan so often no need to ever drop and resign.

  51. @Stvr : Yes, on Verizon, Europe is “only” an extra $10 per day PER DEVICE, on top of your existing monthly plan. So my trip to Germany with the wife would cost us $200 in extra charges (me, wife) if we had Verizon.

    That’s more than our phone plan on T-Mobile costs us! (~$35/mo per phone with the corporate plan we’re on). We jumped ship from Verizon ~2 years ago due to Verizon’s progressively-deteriorating network where we live. It got to the point where I had 0-1 bars at work, NO service at home, spotty service at my other home on Verizon. Verizon didn’t offer WiFi calling at the time, nor would it benefit me now — I want to use my phone’s built-in SMS app, not their crappy add-on. Likewise, T-Mobile can keep a call connected going all the way from 4G->3.5G->3G->2G without dropping the call. Verizon still can’t (and won’t ever be able to) go between their 4G and 3G without dropping a call.

    Sprint’s coverage is…eh… pretty bad. Quite a few holes around Florida that I’ve seen, even more holes in NY and CA. Even right in the middle of cities/towns, no service. Then again, Verizon has some of these same holes.

  52. The Global Roaming plan was previously available through Sprint under a different name. However, it wasn’t as widely available as it is now – apparently they’ve rolled it out in over 100 countries with local partner carriers…. hence the press release.
    I’ve tried it in Nairobi, Paris, London, and Frankfurt. The 2G was eventually throttled so much that it would take 5 minutes to load anything with each click and often the connection would time out (even after a PRL update, power off/on). This was for basic use (email, web browser, social media app) – nothing data intensive. Unlimited text functioned normally where I had a signal.
    Their Int’l department’s tech support is great and they can be contacted via chat, email or toll free while you are abroad.

    It is probably cheaper/more worthwhile to ask Sprint’s International department to unlock your phone – and to purchase a local carrier’s plan/SIM.

    Sprint’s Japan add-on $5/month, if they still have it worked very we’ll for me even in densely populated outlying islands (unlimited data and text included).

  53. I’ve used Sprint’s international roaming in Japan, Korea, Israel, and Turkey… all in the last 3 weeks 😀

    The best:

    Sprint Global Roaming is an unbeatably good deal for Japan. Data is unthrottled 4G (probably because Sprint and SoftBank are owned by the same folks). I’ve used hundreds of GB of unthrottled 4G data in Japan, for free. Acquiring a local SIM card in Japan without a local address is a huge pain in the butt, so the convenience is very high as well.

    The good:

    – Text-only messaging via Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, email work fine everywhere I’ve been.
    – Turkey: Since all your traffic is going through a U.S. server, you don’t have to deal with their web censorship. Wikipedia works 🙂
    – 4G LTE coverage with good signal strength in all the big cities I’ve been to. No idea which local carriers are actually carrying my data.

    The bad:

    – Their “2G speed throttling” algorithm totally sucks. Sometimes it’s fast and basically unthrottled, sometimes it’s just slow, and sometimes it’s so throttled that every attempt to load a Google search or map or web page hangs forever. Rrrrgh.
    – You’ll probably need to frequently update your PRL to maintain coverage, or override the radio settings to go LTE-only. (LTE-only has worked okay on my rooted Android phone.)
    – Little-to-no LTE coverage in Israel south of Jerusalem (the Negev desert).

  54. Sprint’s plan covers Vietnam, T-Mobile does not. Not the biggest hole ever, but it is a hole.

    T-Mobile’s 2G has worked perfect for me in Thailand for making voice calls via WhatsApp, FaceTime Audio, etc. Quite impressive.

    Until Dec. 31 2017 Sprint has the new customer sign-up promotion for 25,000 AA miles. I’ll take a quicker J ticket on JAL, QR, or CX.

  55. Sprint just torpedoed this program and did so quietly. Now it seems that unlimited data is a thing of the past – see their web site and you’ll see that unlimited 2G no longer is offered. It’s just one pay per MB price.

    Booooo Sprint.

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