International Roaming with T-Mobile

If you are planning on traveling internationally and want want to use your T-Mobile phone to make or receive calls, check emails or even use Skype, your phone is most likely a quad band GSM phone and thus will work virtually anywhere on the planet. My question is, unless you have endless amounts of financial resources, why do it? The only logical answer that I can think of is that people STILL are not aware of the alternatives. T-Mobile’s international roaming rates START at $1.49 per minute, plus tax. Taxes is roughly 15-20% depending on the state but let’s say for argument’s sake that you are paying $1.75 per minute for every call you make or receive, whether local or back to the United States – and this is in Western Europe where their rates are the least expensive. This is only for phone calls. If you want to use your phone to check your email or use Apps such as WhatsApp, Skype or Google Maps, typical Apps that one would indeed want to use when traveling, the cost is $15 per MB. I am not sure if T-Mobile is targeting the business traveler who may not care what it costs or the tourist who just doesn’t know and certainly doesn’t expect to be robbed by their carrier but the fact of the matter is that they are making a enormous profit at the expense of their customers.

When I first started Cellular Abroad in 2002, my goal was to make international cellular service affordable for any traveler going overseas. Back then there were no apps and no emails to be had on your phone. While the technology behind cell phones has evolved as has as our reliance/dependency on them evolved, what we haven’t seen is an increase in affordability at least when it comes to using a cell phone abroad. In fact, T-Mobile’s roaming rates are about 20% higher than they were about a year ago. So what should one do if they want to use their T-Mobile (or AT&T, Verizon or Sprint) cell phone abroad?

Most T-Mobile phones will work overseas – at least with T-Mobile. T-Mobile locks their handsets so that the SIM card that is in the phone is compatible only with T-Mobile. The reason they do that is because they don’t want you to use the cell phone you purchased from them with a different service provider. Usually you can get your T-Mobile handset unlocked simply by calling them and asking for the unlock code. Sometimes it takes a bit of “reminding” them of your request. Once you get your handset unlocked, you can use a different SIM card in your phone and essentially your will be overridding T-Mobile’s service and using a different carrier. There are two main categories in SIM cards. The first is a roaming SIM card which is a SIM card that works all over the planet. Our SIM card, the National Geographic Travel SIM, works everywhere that T-Mobile’s service works and in even more places. The rates are significantly less expensive than theirs. Typically, for Western Europe, an outgoing call costs $0.69 per minute and an incoming call costs $0.30 per minute, which is about one-sixth of T-Mobile’s rates. Data is about $0.25 per MB. These rates are significantly less expensive than T-Mobiles and yet, depending on where you are going, the rates can be significantly less expensive. For example, if you are traveling to just one country in Europe, and I will use the UK as an example, here are the rates. For the price of a UK specific SIM card (currently $39) plus a bundle package costing $59, you get 3000 local minutes and texts, 1000 minutes back to the US and 1GB of data. So, for less than $100 you get what T-Mobile literally charges about $20,000.

Most people traveling to the UK do not need 3000 local minutes or 1000 minutes back to the US but what they do need is a cellular solution that they can use as needed – whether it be for local or international calls or data – and without having to ruin their vacation by worrying about what their cell phone bill is going to cost them with T-Mobile.

I am looking foward to any comments regarding this post and in particular to the question, “why use your T-Mobile service overseas?” For now, I am convinced that the answer because people are not aware of alternative and significantly less expensive options. What reinforces this conclusion is that virtually every acquaintance that I have who knows what I do has used Cellular Abroad for service. Now the trick is to get them to actually reach for their wallet.

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About Sebastian Harrison

Founder and President of Cellular Abroad and travel writer.
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