Whether you’re tripping or boarding a plane, T-Mobile just announced big subscriber benefits for everyone traveling this summer.
The latest “UnCarrier” promotion includes free in-flight Wi-Fi on three airlines and high-speed roaming, with 5G, in up to 210 countries.
“Our mission is to be the best in the world at connecting customers to their world, and that means making sure your phone just works wherever you are, even if you’re traveling out of our reach,” said Mike. Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile in a press. release.
International data usage has grown 60x since T-Mobile first introduced free, low-speed data roaming in 2013, said Jon Freier, president of T-Mobile Consumer. That called for a rethink. “If you leave the US and land in one of the countries we serve, it just works,” Freier said. “If they have 5G services there, great, and if it’s LTE, great.”
The worldwide, fast roaming requires you to have T-Mobile’s most expensive Magenta Max plan, also known as the “truly unlimited” plan. It’s limited to 5GB per month, after which you’ll be knocked down to 256Kbps. On the Magenta plan, the next step down, the 5GB high-speed is only available in 11 Central and Eastern European countries where T-Mobile owns a wireless carrier. Elsewhere it is 256 Kbps.
“This is an incredible benefit to use as a customer,” Freier said.
Verizon(Opens in a new window) and AT&T(Opens in a new window) do not offer free international roaming (except to Canada and Mexico). With “day passes” on those providers you can use 4G and sometimes 5G(Opens in a new window) high-speed data for $10/day. Verizon offers one free travel pass per month with its Do More and Get More plans. AT&T says it will never charge you more than $100 per month per line for day passes.
Although data is free up to a limit, calling costs 25 cents/min. (T Mobile)
The in-flight Wi-Fi portion will apply to Delta, American and Alaska Airlines, with United coming soon, according to T-Mobile, which signed a deal with satellite providers Viasat and Intelsat to get the service for its customers.
Magenta Max customers get unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi; Customers with a Magenta subscription get it on four flights a year. The airline points out that in-flight Wi-Fi now enables video streaming, thanks to upgrades from ground-based to faster satellite systems. (This isn’t news; it’s on the airlines’ websites(Opens in a new window) for a while.)
These types of movements usually have two functions. Yes, they attract customers from other carriers who don’t offer free high-speed roaming data. But they’re also there to get T-Mobile subscribers with older plans to upgrade to the most recent plans, perhaps spending more per month.
Whether that will cost you anything gets pretty complicated, because it’s a mix of dollars and convenience. Slow data is cheaper, but annoying. Buying a local SIM card abroad can also be cheaper but very annoying (you will lose your US phone number for the duration).
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T-Mobile’s commitment to free international roaming goes way back. In 2013, the company announced Simple Global, which added free low-speed roaming and cheap calling to many of its service plans. At the time, this was considered a radical step, drastically reducing previously very expensive roaming charges for US subscribers.
The benefits will be activated on June 21, as long as you have the right subscription.
Cheaper petrol for road trippers
The gas discount applies to your first 20 gallons. Don’t take the Hummer.
However, the vast majority of American travelers don’t fly, they drive. According to the AAA, during the Memorial Day weekend of 2022(Opens in a new window), more than 90% of travelers got behind the wheel, not on an airplane. Road trippers generally do not use in-flight internet or international roaming. But users of the Magenta and Magenta Max plans will get AAA roadside assistance and 25 cents per gallon of Shell gas for a year through July.
The company says it was able to get these deals “because of the size and scale of T-Mobile’s customer base” — meaning if it hadn’t been allowed to merge with Sprint, you’d be paying more for gas.
“With a user base of 100 million customers versus a fraction of that a few years ago, that’s changed things. There are things we couldn’t do before,” Freier said.
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