T-Mobile, Sprint as well as other carriers all claim it; free unlimited international data. This is a very compelling statement and the vast majority of travelers don’t question it. The problem with this claim, while in theory true, in practice, it is not what we signed up for. For example, most of us have been fooled by that “all you can eat” shrimp or oyster deal in Las Vegas but the fact of the matter is, after a couple of bites, you won’t want any more. Unlimited data is much the same. Sure, it is unlimited but, in T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s case and like the shrimp in Las Vegas, it something that very few can stomach. Their version of free international data is at 2G speeds, which is virtually useless for anything except for checking emails, and even that may be frustrating (especially if you are loading images).
Another similar practice is to misconstrue the true meaning of unlimited. While unlimited to you and most everyone else means, “without limits,” in the wireless industry it clearly does not. The wireless industry has something called Fair Usage. Fair usage means that there is indeed a cap and typically, once that cap is reached the data will either stop or slow down. This is very typical for any provider, including international data providers and hotspot rental companies to do. Typically, they will offer 300 or so megabytes of data at 3G or 4G speeds and once that maximum is reached, the service stops or slows down to 2G. Having said this, that may be enough data for the end user – but it also may not be enough. Regardless, the industry typically does a poor job of explaining this thoroughly.
Conclusion, next time you are offered free data or unlimited data, make sure you find out exactly what they are offering.