Sprint's joining the fight against roaming data charges and taking on T-Mobile by introducing a free set up for customers using the International Value Roaming plan. But is it a good one?
T-Mobile's about to gain some competition in the land of free international data roaming. Sprint just rolled out International Value Roaming, which allows customers in 16 countries to use 2G speed for free. Phone calls will only be 20 cents per minute.
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Right now, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Spain, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Germany, Japan, Russia, South Korea and United Kingdom are all part of the plan.
And if a customer needs more speed, there are additional passes.
For $15 a day, 100 MB of 3G speed is available. A 7-day pass is 200 MB and $25. For two weeks, the price is $50 and 500 MB of unrestricted data. There are no coverage charges but the passes will only cover consecutive days and is available immediately after purchase.
Of course, smartphones can eat up data in crazy numbers, so it might be better to stick with the free 2G plan unless absolutely necessary. Price point may be out of range unless traveling on business, which seems to be the intent of the tiered-plan for the most part.
"The continuous feedback from our customers indicates how important it is to travel without the fear of high roaming charges." Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, wants customers to know that the company is listening. "So, we launched free data roaming and Wi-Fi."
The company notes that wifi calling is free as well. The feature is available on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s and select Android devices. According to Sprint, the network is superior to AT&T and Verizon since "their customers who travel internationally still have to worry about getting charged for every gigabyte of data, every text and every phone call."
Chris Velazco from Engadget points out the flaw in Sprint's plan, however. Sprint is looking to compete with T-Mobile, which boasts a slow but reasonable 128kbps data speed, with a whopping 64kbps for 2G access. That's half the speed. Remember those brick cellphones that Zack Morris kept around? Plus, the plan is limited to LTE/GSM capable devices.
And there's the fact that free rates only apply to the countries in the program, whereas T-Mobile has a network of 120 countries and covers all devices. That's a significantly important difference when traveling abroad.
If a customer goes outside the areas in coverage, the phone's basically a paperweight. In order to ensure usage, the carrier advises people to visit Sprint World Wide and make sure the out-of-range locations are included. Also, it's probably a good idea to call make sure the device and customer data are well-qualified for the offer.
"Latin America, Europe and Japan are only the beginning. We will continuously add new countries to ensure our customers can use their device virtually wherever they travel," added Claure. Many of the countries listed already worked with Sprint on international plans, so the connection to a free plan makes sense.
But will customers agree? Or will they move over to the competition where the value seems to be higher?
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Sources: Engadget, Sprint